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Abortion and Contraception: Old Lies
Catholic Exchange ^ | July 10, 2007 | Pete Vere

Posted on 07/31/2007 7:29:27 AM PDT by NYer

Growing up Catholic, I knew theologically that my church forbade abortion and contraception. Although the church's stand on abortion was self-evident in my opinion, I didn't really understand why she took such a hard line on contraception until I found myself judging annulment cases on a Catholic marriage tribunal. With few exceptions, I could trace every marital breakdown to the couple saying "no" to the fertility with which God had blessed them.

Shocked, I began to research the history of abortion and contraception in my spare time. I was interested, both as a canon lawyer and a pro-family journalist, in discovering how modern society had fallen for such a grand lie. Yet, the deeper I researched, the darker were the conclusions.

Contraception and abortion were nothing new. Rather, they were old lies that were often tied to sorcery and witchcraft in the ancient and medieval worlds. This is the context in which I found myself reading two books by Dr. John M. Riddle, a professor of history at North Carolina State University, published by Harvard University Press. The first was Contraception and Abortion from the Ancient World to the Renaissance (1992) and the second was Eve's Herbs: A History of Contraception and Abortion in the West (2002).

Contraception and Abortion from the Ancient World to the Renaissance

To begin, Riddle's thesis in this work is simple: contraception, abortifacients and abortion-inducing substances are not modern inventions. Both the ancient and medieval worlds had knowledge of herbs and other plants that, when administered in a certain ways, prevented conception or caused women to abort. That being said, I did not find this work as interesting as Eve's Herbs. While Riddle does an excellent job detailing the various formulas used throughout history to prevent conception and induce abortion, Contraception and Abortion often reads like a cookbook or a pharmacist's manual. Thus, I would find it tedious reading, since my interest lay more with the why than the how.

Nevertheless, I am glad I read Contraception and Abortion for three reasons:

1) the book confirms, in great detail, that abortion and contraception have been practised for as long as man has kept written records;

2) the book admits that abortion and contraception are often linked to pagan gods (or more commonly, goddesses); and

3) the book corroborates — from a secular, scholarly and historical perspective — that the Christian church has struggled against abortion and contraception for centuries, and thus, our present-day struggle as right-to-life activists is nothing new.

Eve's Herbs: A History of Contraception and Abortion in the West

I found Eve's Herbs the more compelling of Riddle's two books. While it was not without its weaknesses, it answered a question that had long troubled me: I had often wondered why Holy Scripture appeared to say so little about the grave evils of abortion and contraception. As a pro-life Christian, it troubled me that the Bible never mentioned the words "abortion" or "contraception." Eve's Herbs provided me with a startling realization: in ancient and medieval times, contraception and abortion were often considered a form of sorcery and witchcraft, rather than a form of medicine.

 Thus, Holy Scripture may never use the words abortion and contraception; however, the Bible is not silent on the issue. It simply condemns these practices under a different name. For example, Riddle notes the following while discussing the medieval witch: "The magic associated with women was often connected to their use of herbs." He then cites a number of modern studies corroborating the effectiveness of the anti-fertility herbs used by witches and midwives during the Middle Ages. "In other words, the deeds described in the 15th century as the sevenfold traits of witchcraft are all creditable, according to modern medicine," Riddle states. "Midwives and witches, whether one and the same, knew the drugs to take to reduce fertility."

The author quotes modern historian Richard Trexler: "Infanticide was far and away the most common social crime imputed to the aged witches of Europe by the demonologists." While sometimes prone to accepting the allegations of anti-Catholic historians, Riddle disputes one of their more common claims; namely, that midwives were often singled out for accusations of witchcraft because they were women of prominence and influence. "More likely," he writes, "the primary reason witches were persecuted was the same as that for which a woman in Hamburg was burnt to death in 1477: 'because she had instructed young females how to use abortion medicines.'" He had already noted that "Sexual offences were, by far, the leading offences of which witches were accused in three Essex villages between 1560 and 1599."

Eve's Herbs is an excellent expose of the wide availability of contraception and abortion in the ancient and medieval times. It also does a fairly good job, from a secular and scholarly perspective, of showing the historical link between contraception, abortion and witchcraft.


TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; Moral Issues; Religion & Science
KEYWORDS: abortion; birthcontrol; catholic; contraception; herbs; moralabsolutes; prolife; witchcraft
Pete Vere is a canon lawyer and a Catholic author. He recently co-authored Surprised by Canon Law: 150 Questions Catholics Ask About Canon Law (Servant Books) with Michael Trueman and More Catholic Than the Pope (Our Sunday Visitor) with Patrick Madrid. He lives in Sault Ste. Marie, Canada.

This article originally appeared in Interim, Canada's pro-life newpaper online, and is used by permission of the author.

1 posted on 07/31/2007 7:29:30 AM PDT by NYer
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To: Lady In Blue; Salvation; narses; SMEDLEYBUTLER; redhead; Notwithstanding; nickcarraway; Romulus; ...

Ping!


2 posted on 07/31/2007 7:29:56 AM PDT by NYer ("Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church" - Ignatius of Antioch)
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To: NYer
An excellent point: too many Christians suppose that the lenses through which they view the modern world and the lenses through which the inspired Biblical authors viewed the world are more or less identical.

Hence the large number of self-described "Evangelical" or "Bible" Christians who accept the teaching of Margaret Sanger on fertility and reject God's.

What makes witchcraft and sorcery evil is that it involves humans usurping powers and rights which are only God's to grant.

3 posted on 07/31/2007 7:36:58 AM PDT by wideawake
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To: NYer

Indeed Old Lies. The secular world has not wanted to look at the truth.


4 posted on 07/31/2007 8:03:08 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation
Now for the graphic truth. Priests for Life -- What an abortion looks like
5 posted on 07/31/2007 8:04:15 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: All
enter the Table of Contents of the Catechism of the Catholic Church here
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church
(click on the book for the link.)
 
 
2399 The regulation of births represents one of the aspects of responsible fatherhood and motherhood. Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means (for example, direct sterilization or contraception).

 

2370 Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality. These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, "every action which, whether 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" is intrinsically evil:

Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality. . . . The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle . . . involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.

6 posted on 07/31/2007 8:05:36 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: wideawake
What makes witchcraft and sorcery evil is that it involves humans usurping powers and rights which are only God's to grant.

***********

Well said, although it is not unusual for them to be used in the performance of evil as well.

7 posted on 07/31/2007 8:14:24 AM PDT by trisham (Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkis.)
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To: NYer

Article:”With few exceptions, I could trace every marital breakdown to the couple saying “no” to the fertility with which God had blessed them.”

What does the Roman Catholic church say about “family planning”? In other words, are ANY means used by married couples to reduce their number of children acceptable? I have heard many Catholics talk about natural family planning but this seems to be “saying ‘no’ to the fertility with which God has blessed them” (as the author states).

What is the official RCC view?


8 posted on 07/31/2007 9:14:51 AM PDT by visually_augmented (I was blind, but now I see)
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To: wideawake
too many Christians suppose that the lenses through which they view the modern world and the lenses through which the inspired Biblical authors viewed the world are more or less identical.

Not only Christians: most people cannot understand the past as it was seen and interpreted by their grandparents and great-grandparents. Ironically, that means they cannot how much they have in common with their immediate forebears or why they saw things so much differently. Being dead to the past means that one is blind to the to present.

9 posted on 07/31/2007 9:32:12 AM PDT by RobbyS ( CHIRHO)
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To: wideawake
too many Christians suppose that the lenses through which they view the modern world and the lenses through which the inspired Biblical authors viewed the world are more or less identical.

Not only Christians: most people cannot understand the past as it was seen and interpreted by their grandparents and great-grandparents. Ironically, that means they cannot how much they have in common with their immediate forebears or why they saw things so much differently. Being dead to the past means that one is blind to the to present.

10 posted on 07/31/2007 9:32:29 AM PDT by RobbyS ( CHIRHO)
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To: wideawake
too many Christians suppose that the lenses through which they view the modern world and the lenses through which the inspired Biblical authors viewed the world are more or less identical.

Not only Christians: most people cannot understand the past as it was seen and interpreted by their grandparents and great-grandparents. Ironically, that means they cannot how much they have in common with their immediate forebears or why they saw things so much differently. Being dead to the past means that one is blind to the to present.

11 posted on 07/31/2007 9:32:47 AM PDT by RobbyS ( CHIRHO)
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To: visually_augmented
See post 6.
12 posted on 07/31/2007 9:35:23 AM PDT by wideawake
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To: NYer

Back in 1975, I learned from a priest that the Greek word “pharmakeia” used by St. Paul in Galatians, was referring to the “occult use of medicinal herbs”, among which were those that enduced abortion.

So over 30 years ago, I was taught that back in the days of Paul, the practice of abortion was considered a form of witchcraft or “occult medicine” and Paul warned his Galatian church about that.


13 posted on 07/31/2007 9:44:08 AM PDT by Running On Empty (The three sorriest words: "It's too late")
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To: Running On Empty

PS—I meant to add that the priest also included “pharmakeia” as the use of occult practices to prevent conception.

To this day I wish I had a copy of that conference the priest gave to us.


14 posted on 07/31/2007 9:52:14 AM PDT by Running On Empty (The three sorriest words: "It's too late")
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To: wideawake; NYer

So a RCC married couple could live their entire married lives using the natural method of birth control with great success and NEVER have a child. This would be completely within the teaching of the catechism and yet defy the very spirit of the law (IMHO). The couple would be continuing to have sex within the confines of marriage while avoiding the God-decreed command to be fruitful and multiply.

I don’t see any Biblical support for this RCC teaching. Where in the Bible has this been practiced by God’s people and encouraged by God?

Granted, there are cases where christian women can have their “wombs closed by God” but infertility is quite a different thing from purposefully avoiding children in marriage through natural means (or any means). When the church condones this behavior, and even encourages such, I must question their theological acuity.


15 posted on 07/31/2007 11:03:30 AM PDT by visually_augmented (I was blind, but now I see)
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To: visually_augmented
What does the Roman Catholic church say about “family planning”?

Just a note before responding ... it's the Catholic Church (there are 22 Churches that make up the CC of which the Latin Church is the largest).

The Catholic Church's teaching on this subject is:

NFP is an umbrella term for certain methods used to achieve and avoid pregnancies. These methods are based on observation of the naturally occurring signs and symptoms of the fertile and infertile phases of a woman's menstrual cycle. Couples using NFP to avoid pregnancy abstain from intercourse and genital contact during the fertile phase of the woman's cycle. No drugs, devices, or surgical procedures are used to avoid pregnancy.

NFP reflects the dignity of the human person within the context of marriage and family life, promotes openness to life, and recognizes the value of the child. By respecting the love-giving and life-giving natures of marriage, NFP can enrich the bond between husband and wife.

Read More

16 posted on 07/31/2007 11:16:21 AM PDT by NYer ("Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church" - Ignatius of Antioch)
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To: wideawake

“What makes witchcraft and sorcery evil is that it involves humans usurping powers and rights which are only God’s to grant.”

Just for discussions sake, would this idea extend to antibiotics or gene therapy?


17 posted on 07/31/2007 11:47:37 AM PDT by dan1123 (You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. --Jesus)
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To: dan1123
Just for discussions sake, would this idea extend to antibiotics or gene therapy?

Neither involves the creation, destruction or prevention of human life, but both are ordered (presumably) to the healing and preservation of human life.

18 posted on 07/31/2007 12:01:48 PM PDT by wideawake
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To: visually_augmented
So a RCC married couple could live their entire married lives using the natural method of birth control with great success and NEVER have a child. This would be completely within the teaching of the catechism

In a word, No. See CCC 1652. The husband and wife are called to be fruitful and multiply. One of the intrinsic and irremovable purposes of marriage is the "procreation and education of offspring" (CCC 1601). Those who seek to enter into a sexual relationship with no intention of having children are not entering into marriage. NFP is for regulation of childbirth, not for avoiding procreation altogether.

-A8

19 posted on 07/31/2007 12:06:19 PM PDT by adiaireton8 ("There is no greater evil one can suffer than to hate reasonable discourse." - Plato, Phaedo 89d)
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To: adiaireton8
Dear adiareton8,

On the mark.

I’d clarify, however, that those who marry who are infertile without culpability are not persons with an intention to avoid having children.


sitetest

20 posted on 07/31/2007 12:24:15 PM PDT by sitetest (If Roe is not overturned, no unborn child will ever be protected in law.)
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To: visually_augmented
So a RCC married couple could live their entire married lives using the natural method of birth control with great success and NEVER have a child.

No.

Couples who are capable of having children have a moral obligation to have children.

NFP is intended to provide a respite if necessary in a larger context of having children.

For example, my friend who was advised by her doctor after a couple of miscarriages to take an 18-24 month break between pregnancies in order to reduce the chance of further miscarriages.

That is an appropriate context.

21 posted on 07/31/2007 12:25:37 PM PDT by wideawake
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To: sitetest
True. But as I understand it, those with known [antecedent and perpetual] impotence or sterility cannot enter into marriage. That is an impediment to a valid marriage.

-A8

22 posted on 07/31/2007 12:30:49 PM PDT by adiaireton8 ("There is no greater evil one can suffer than to hate reasonable discourse." - Plato, Phaedo 89d)
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To: wideawake

Correct. There are frequently cases where, for a serious medical reason, a woman who already has children to care for, may need to avoid another pregnancy for a limited period of time.

That is one value of knowing NFP. On the the other hand, NFP can be helpful when couples want to achieve a pregnancy.


23 posted on 07/31/2007 12:32:47 PM PDT by Running On Empty (The three sorriest words: "It's too late")
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To: adiaireton8
Dear adiareton8,

Impotence is an impediment to valid marriage, as it makes impossible consummation of the marriage.

However, I don’t believe that infertility is an impediment.


sitetest

24 posted on 07/31/2007 12:41:21 PM PDT by sitetest (If Roe is not overturned, no unborn child will ever be protected in law.)
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To: adiaireton8
Dear adiaireton8,

Here's a cite from Canon Law:

Can. 1084 §1. Antecedent and perpetual impotence to have intercourse, whether on the part of the man or the woman, whether absolute or relative, nullifies marriage by its very nature.

§2. If the impediment of impotence is doubtful, whether by a doubt about the law or a doubt about a fact, a marriage must not be impeded nor, while the doubt remains, declared null.

§3. Sterility neither prohibits nor nullifies marriage, without prejudice to the prescript of can. 1098.

http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P3Y.HTM


sitetest

25 posted on 07/31/2007 12:56:59 PM PDT by sitetest (If Roe is not overturned, no unborn child will ever be protected in law.)
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To: sitetest
Thanks. Let's clarify. Is it not true that actions such as castration, removal of the ovaries, and hysterectomy, render a person sterile, and also are impediments to marriage, even if the male retains the ability to have an erection. Is that not correct?

Natural sterility is not treated the same as the three actions above. Right?

-A8

26 posted on 07/31/2007 1:22:09 PM PDT by adiaireton8 ("There is no greater evil one can suffer than to hate reasonable discourse." - Plato, Phaedo 89d)
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To: adiaireton8
Dear adiareton8,

Someone who is sterilized with just cause, it is my understanding, is free to marry if he or she isn’t impotent. A woman who has a hysterectomy because she has uterine cancer, or her ovaries removed because of cancer, is, to my understanding, still free to marry.

I have actually known Catholic women who have validly married who have had these surgeries for legitimate medical reasons.

Similarly, if a man were to receive medical treatment that incidentally rendered him infertile, but not impotent, it is my understanding that he could still marry.

I don’t know what would happen to someone made sterile for the purposes of avoiding procreation, i.e., a man who voluntarily received a vasectomy strictly to avoid procreation.

The canons don’t seem to suggest any differentiation between natural sterility and sterility imposed by human action.


sitetest

27 posted on 07/31/2007 1:31:08 PM PDT by sitetest (If Roe is not overturned, no unborn child will ever be protected in law.)
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To: sitetest
Interesting. Thanks again. I thought cases of castration/hysterectomy were treated like impotence. I guess I was wrong. The Church has a very high view of divine omnipotence. :-) Apparently, as long as the capacity for the conjugal act is there, a couple can be genuinely open to procreation. That says something about what the Church thinks about divine involvement in procreation.

-A8

28 posted on 07/31/2007 2:39:20 PM PDT by adiaireton8 ("There is no greater evil one can suffer than to hate reasonable discourse." - Plato, Phaedo 89d)
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To: NYer

Interesting. I think I’ll request the books he mentions in his article. We might even have them in our library, since the author is a local university professor!


29 posted on 07/31/2007 2:49:21 PM PDT by Tax-chick (All the main characters die, and then the Prince of Sweden delivers the Epilogue.)
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To: NYer

Thank you for this information, since no numbers are given anywhere about the history of abortion. I need to know if abortion was practiced in pre-war Germany and Europe, and now I know what to look for in my research. I could never understand the holocaust, but if abortion was being overlooked and practiced, then a Bible study I have done will be confirmed in my mind, and a great fear of the LORD fills my heart.


30 posted on 07/31/2007 8:53:09 PM PDT by huldah1776
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To: NYer

“Holy Scripture may never use the words abortion and contraception; however, the Bible is not silent on the issue.” God definitely lets us know that He hates child sacrifice.


31 posted on 07/31/2007 8:55:42 PM PDT by huldah1776
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To: NYer
Dr. Brian Koop, a former FReeper, used to be the main advocate for the Christian view of contraception. He made me think of it for the first time (before I was married, it wasn’t an issue).

What is interesting is that many pastors are starting quietly change their view on chemical contraception, so the tide is starting to turn.

32 posted on 08/01/2007 4:23:40 AM PDT by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: huldah1776
Abortion was practiced in a limited way in pre WWII Europe. It was mainly used as a method of eugenics, much like it got it’s start here.
33 posted on 08/01/2007 4:26:11 AM PDT by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: huldah1776
Abortion was practiced in a limited way in pre WWII Europe. It was mainly used as a method of eugenics, much like it got it’s start here.
34 posted on 08/01/2007 4:26:13 AM PDT by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: All

Dang double post!


35 posted on 08/01/2007 4:26:50 AM PDT by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: redgolum
Dang double post!

Happens to us all.

36 posted on 08/01/2007 4:33:43 AM PDT by Tax-chick (All the main characters die, and then the Prince of Sweden delivers the Epilogue.)
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