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January 05, 2007

Comments

bill912

Being somewhat prone to scrupulosity, something I find helpful is to remember that, when it comes to our forgiven sins, God, in a sense, "forgets" them. I try to do the same.

Tim J.

Thanks for another sound post, Jimmy.

I have found the teaching of the Church gives us the double benefit of setting the highest possible goals for personal spiritual growth, while at the same time offering tremendous understanding and compassion when it comes to our failings.

Just what you would expect from the Church Christ founded.

Tim J.

Justice and Mercy dancing together.

Dan Hunter

There but for the grace of God go I
In Hoc Signo.

cat

Shortly hereupon Mr. Rich (afterwards Lord Rich) then newly the King's Solicitor, Sir Richard Southwell, and Mr. Palmer, servant to the Secretary, were sent to Sir Thomas More into the Tower, to fetch away his books from him.

And while Sir Richard Southwell and Mr. Palmer were busy in trussing up of his books...


Mr. Rich pretending friendly talk with him, among other things of a set course, as it seemed, said thus unto him: "Forasmuch as it is well known (Mr. More) that you are a man both wise and well learned, as well in the laws of the Realm, as otherwise, I pray you therefore, Sir, let me be so bold as of good will to put unto you this case. Admit there were, Sir," quoth he, "an Act of Parliament, that all the Realm should take me for the King, would not you (Mr. More) take me for the King?"

"Yes, Sir," quoth Sir Thomas More, "that would I."

"I put the case further" (quoth Mr. Rich) "that there were an Act of Parliament that all the Realm should take me for the Pope; would then not you, Mr. More, take me for the Pope?"

"For answer," quoth Sir Thomas More, "to your first case, the Parliament may well (Mr. Rich) meddle with the state of temporal princes; but to make answer to your second case, I will put you this case. Suppose the Parliament would make a law, that God should not be God, would you then, Mr. Rich, say God were not God?"

"No, Sir," quoth he, "that would I not, since no Parliament may make any such law."

"No more" (said Sir Thomas More, as Mr. Rich reported of him) "could the Parliament make the King supreme head of the Church."

Blaine

I heard a story about Saint Faustina getting asked by her spiritual director to ask Jesus about the spiritual directors own sins (like a test of the apparition). The answer she got was "I forgot them".

Does anyone recall this story and were would I find it?

This story helped me alot with scruples and confession along with the one about Saint Moses the Black who in confession the first time read his sins off a stone tablet that an angel was holding and when he would repent of each one the angel would wipe the engraved sin with a towel and it would vanish.

bill912

I remember hearing that, too, Blaine, although something in my mind associates it with St. Catherine Laboure. (I could be wrong about that, or it could be associated with both saints).

Fabio P.Barbieri

This thread made me think the following. It is a thought I had not had before, so I am writing it down in the hope it might help someone.

Every sin carries an infinity of attenuating circumstances. God knows them all. Therefore, when we pray for forgiveness, we should simply pray for forgiveness for our sin, not think of any reason why it is less heinous than it could be, or why we could not help performing it. God knows all these things, and indeed, He may find some of our sins less hard to forgive than we to forgive ourselves. But we must, with all our hearts, ask for forgiveness for our sins; and then we can hope that it is granted.

JohnH

Something that this case does not talk about, but I've heard before, is that a marriage is not consumated if there has never been a non-contraceptive act of intercourse. If Jimmy reads this combox, I'd love to hear his take on that one.

John

Would someone please answer the following question:

Since the church approves Natural Family Planning, apparently it has no problem with contraceptive intent, only the method.

Assuming that there are other methods that do not involve abortion, but merely prevent the union of sperm and egg, why are those methods wrong?

John

In my view, the initial questioner has a bad case of scruples, or else he is looking for a convenient excuse to ditch his wife. Of course, he is validly married. If they are truly worried about it, though, why don't they go through a second marriage ceremony? If he has legitimate doubts about the validity of the marriage, why is he living with her? Better yet, why is SHE living with a nut case like him?

bill912

OK, John, we get the message: everybody is a nut case. Now, stop looking in the mirror, put down the mouse, and let the adults converse.

Tim J.

Natural Family Planning has NO contraceptive intent.

Two people NOT having sex is not anything like "contraception". Contraception is an attempt to render the sex act unfruitful.

Get your facts straight.

anonymous

John, as the author of the original post, I can say that your reply allows me to keep my new year's resolution about forgiving my enemies from my heart. God bless you.

JD

Tim J-

NFP can be sued with a contraceptive intent, if one approachges it with the werong attitude and intention to completely exclude children from the marriage through a natural means.

Tim J.

Well, JD, "the wrong attitude" does not equal "contraception".

You are correct that NFP may be used for the wrong reasons, and that the intention to completely exclude children from the marriage is one of those, but it is just not the same thing as contraception.

If "not having sex" is equal to "contracepting", then everyone is contracepting most of the time.

Those using NFP are aware that the method offers no guarantee. There is always the possibility of pregnancy, and NFP places no impediment in the way. For those who practice NFP, each individual act of marriage (as often as it happens) is as open to life as it can be.

Indeed, the big hurdle that most have to jump in giving up contraception for NFP is that it is no sure thing! The very act of giving up artificial contraception for NFP involves placing one's trust in God. It is better to be completely open to life, but it is no sin - and it is not practicing contraception - to abstain periodically. NFP does nothing to close off the procreative aspect of the sex act.

M.Z. Forrest

JD is correct Tim. If NFP could not be used contraceptively, one would not need proportionate reason to use it as is required in Humanae Vitae. You are correct in stating that the abstinance is not the problem. Rather it is deliberately choosing to have a sterile sex act. If this sterility is accidental, then there is no issue.

John

Okay, in the interest of group harmony and charity, I will retract the "nut case" statement. Sorry if anyone got upset over it.

However, a person who has no contraceptive intent would not have any interest in something called "Natural Family Planning." A person who expresses an interest in NFP is looking for a way to have sexual intercourse without having children, and that is "contraceptive intent." If the couple truly had no contraceptive intent, they would simply engage in sexual intercourse and let nature take its course.

So, I will respectfully rephrase my question as follows:

If it is okay to think about having sexual intercourse for purposes other than the procreation of children, why is it permissible to use one method and not another, so long as we are not talking about abortion or other unlawful means?

M.Z. Forrest

John,

Having coitus during pregnancy would necessarily fall under such a prohibition. So, a positive prohibition will not suffice, e.g. "You may not have sex unless your act can result in pregnancy." As regards contraception, the formulation is negative, "You may not cause a sex act to be infertile." The placement of a barrier is a direct contradiction to this.

The question arises if the techniques used in NFP act in the same manner. The answer is that they do not necessarily do so. For example, sampling one's temperature is not an intrinsically evil act. This does not mean that taking one's temperature cannot be used for evil.

The problem with allowing a barrier method of any sort is that the scriptural foundation for not allowing contraception with Odan's act of coitus interuptus. By necessity any moral system you set up would still have to ban that. The logic necessary to do so cannot be found in the allowance of barrier methods.

Dr. Eric

Onan, MZ, Onan.

Tim J.

Well, my whole problem is with the word "contraception".

Real contraception - to my mind - would involve actively thwarting the procreative aspect of a particular sex act. NFP does not do this.

St. Paul encourages married couples to abstain from sex "for a season" for higher spiritual goals... to train themselves in self control, for instance, or as a kind of fast in order to strengthen prayer. So, in principle, abstaining from sex within marriage - whether one is fertile or not - is no sin, unless it is done for selfish reasons, and in that case it is the selfishness that is the sin, and not the abstinence.

Let me put it this way; NFP does NOTHING to change the nature of ANY sex act, and therefore - to my mind - can not properly be called contraception.

We can talk loosely about a "contraceptive mentality", but I don't think that really helps to clarify things.

For instance, one could (God forbid!) just have sex naturally, conceive children and abort them or kill them at birth, or afterwards. This is, tragically, no mere hypothetical. It happens. This is one way of "closing off marriage to children" that does not involve contraception at all, yet it exhibits what we might call "the contraceptive mentality" in spades. It is anti-CHILD, not particularly anti-conception.

What I do find largely hypothetical is the picture of the pious, practicing Catholic man and wife who are yet so selfish that they slyly use NFP to close off their marriage to children. There may be people like this out there, but I have yet to meet any.

I would hazard a guess that - in our culture, especially - almost any Catholic married couple that would bother to follow the Church's teaching regarding birth control would not be so self-centered and faithless as to put off pregnancy so they could afford a bigger boat. They would have to be suffering from some kind of split personality disorder for that to make sense.

As I prepared to enter the Catholic Church I had a very liberal priest bring up this idea of NFP being open to abuse, but in the context of our meeting his point was to try to equate NFP and The Pill - in order to minimize objections to The Pill!

My wife and I expressed a commitment to the Catholic teaching on Natural Family Planning, and he in effect said, "That really doesn't make you any better than those who use artificial contraception". His point was that we could make the distinction if we wanted to, but that it REALLY wasn't that big a deal.

It was subtly expressed, but it was there.

SDG

However, a person who has no contraceptive intent would not have any interest in something called "Natural Family Planning." A person who expresses an interest in NFP is looking for a way to have sexual intercourse without having children, and that is "contraceptive intent."

You are mistaken, on a number of levels.

First, because some people who "express an interest in NFP" are looking for a way to achieve pregnancy, not just to avoid it. NFP really is natural family planning, not just conception avoidance.

Secondly, because NFP rightly used to avoid conception is not intended to allow "sexual intercourse without having children," but rather to space or postpone pregnancies, or otherwise limit -- but not exclude -- children. (Contraception can also be used to this end, which just goes to show that means matter as well as ends.)

But thirdly, and most critically, because "contraceptive intent" in a morally relevant sense means the intent to prevent conception, not simply to avoid it.

Unlike the ambiguous (and in my book deprecated) term "birth control," the term "contraception" fittingly designates what it is, acts committed against (contra) possible acts of conception that might otherwise have occurred.

NFP does not prevent conception. A couple who deliberately choose to spend a night watching a movie, reading together, or pursuing some other activity rather than choosing to engage in conjugal relations are not actively preventing a child. They are simply choosing not to seek to bring about that child.

This is different, at least in principle, from the intent of a couple that chooses to use contraception, thus actively seeking to prevent a child. That is contraceptive in act and in intent.

Tim J.

Consider this scenario;

A husband and wife are driven from their home in a war zone and become refugees. They have only a few necessities, and do not know when, or if, they will ever be able to return.

They find shelter where they can, and are forced to rely on the kindness of strangers in order to live.

Could these people be faulted for avoiding intercourse in order to avoid pregnancy? They have every kind of grave reason to avoid bringing a child into their current situation.

This is worlds apart from getting sterilized so you won't have anything to distract you from your 5-year plan to become VP of Marketing (or whatever).

Esau

Tim J. and others:

I was curious.

Parenthood involves a grave responsibility and shouldn't be lightly taken.

That said, what of those parents who practice NFP for the very purpose of avoiding pregnancy due to certain adverse conditions such as financial difficulties that they might have (e.g., the income they rely on is meager) and fear that they do not have enough to support even one child based on their poor standard of living and, thus, may need to avoid it?

Could they be faulted for this?

M.Z. Forrest

It would be a proportionate reason to discern the period of fertility so as to not risk impregnation at the time of being a refugee. To seek to discern the period of fertility purely to enjoy sex without risk of having child is contraceptive and sinful.

NFP does avoid conception. This is why proportionate reason is necessary. The only question is whether the avoidance of conception is forseen or intended. Proportionate reason determines this.

*
Graci Dr. Eric

Tim J.

"NFP does avoid conception."

"To seek to discern the period of fertility purely to enjoy sex without risk of having child is contraceptive and sinful."

What if you know that all your marital relations from now on will be infertile? Is it then sinful to have sex enjoying the unitive aspect alone? I know it COULD be (lust within marriage, and all that) but is it necessarily?

The unitive aspect of the marital act is a gift from God, and as long as no measures are taken to seperate the unitive and the procreative aspects of a particular sex act, and as long as the marriage is open to children generally, enjoying marital relations is not sinful.

Back to our refugees...

While at a temporary shelter they have the opportunity to have relations, but the wife informs the husband that she is likely fertile and together they decide to abstain, because they are barely able to feed and clothe themselves as it is.

A week later, at another shelter, they have another opportunity and DO have relations. Is this second instance a sin? Was the first? Keep in mind that their heart's desire may be nothing other than to return home and have a bunch of kids!

Is there some sin that I am missing, here? Yes, the unitive and procreaive aspects OF THE SEX ACT are not to be seperated, but NFP does not do so.

To argue that a husband and wife can not enjoy marital relations while - for serious reasons - using NFP to time their children, seems to go against the Catechism;

"For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood. Moreover, they should conform their behavior to the objective criteria of morality..."

In other words, the freedom to space the births of children is not just a license to do as you please. The reasons must be real and they must be serious. To say "we just don't want kids right now" would be sinful, NFP or not.

Tim J.

I'm no expert, and I'm certainly open to correction, but some comments seem to be heading in the direction of saying that a husband and wife should avoid conjugal relations if the act likely would not be fertile.

This just does not seem to jibe with Church teaching, in my view.

M.Z. Forrest

I am not claiming it is illicit based on circumstance, e.g. the woman is infertile because she is pregnant or breastfeeding. When using the NFP techniques, the question must be answered to what the use of the techniques is ordered. If they are ordered toward protecting the woman's health - she has given birth recently and has not fully recovered - or ordered toward preventing indigency - they will be tossed on the street if they have another child - then the contraceptive effect is known, but not intended. If they are ordered toward preventing another child for the convenience of the couple, it is intended and sinful.

Tim J.

Again, from the Catechism:

"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.".

In other words "recourse to the rythm of the cycle" is not contraception. It is the opposite of contraception.

Tim J.

"If they are ordered toward preventing another child for the convenience of the couple, it is intended and sinful. "

Righto.

"If they are ordered toward protecting the woman's health - she has given birth recently and has not fully recovered - or ordered toward preventing indigency - they will be tossed on the street if they have another child - then the contraceptive effect is known, but not intended."

Again, I would disgree with your application of the term "contraceptive". Contraception is not allowed, the regulation of births by the use of NFP IS allowed, with the right motivations.

We may not do evil that good may result. Contraception - for reasons of health, indigency or whatever - is objectively sinful... an intrinsic evil.

Inocencio

M.Z. Forrest,

Abstinence never has a contraceptive effect. Yes, you must have serious reasons for practicing NFP to avoid conception and the Church expects husbands and wives to always be open to the gift of a child which anyone who practices NFP understands.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

M.Z. Forrest

Abstinance does not have a conraceptive effect. Show me where I said it did.

You both are approaching this backwords. You never need proportionate reason to do that which is good. You are trying to maintain that circumstance makes NFP intrinsically good, e.g. the circumstance of being unhealth or indigenct. This is like saying shooting someone is good because the circumstance is that a man is threatening me. This is backwards! Defending yourself is the moral good and the death of the man is forseen and unintended.

Esau

Contraception - for reasons of health, indigency or whatever - is objectively sinful... an intrinsic evil.

Thanks, Tim J. for your sticking to the Hard Gospel, no matter its difficult message.

It's just that in the eyes of others, it is often said how irresponsible the poor are in that despite their poverty, they, nevertheless, have children.

The same can also be said of a couple who do not have much of an income and can barely support themselves. If they should have children, they, too, are seen as irresponsible.

Yet, personally, I can see how an indigent couple who do not have much and can't support themselves even; how because they cannot afford to have a baby, actually use NFP for this very purpose (i.e., to prevent a pregnancy) because of the proper care they're unable to provide that child should they end up having one.

Now, I'm not saying that it's right, but that this is understandable from my perspective.

Dr. Eric

There's the rub, what makes a sufficent difficulty to practice NFP...

Should a woman have children one after another?

Should she wait a few years between children?

My wife was told by our doctor that the reason that our newest son (age 15 months) developed his little heart condition was that she didn't have enough time to recover after our third child.

We used to get tricked upon returning to fertility so our children have about 18 months in between them.

Inocencio

M.Z. Forrest,

What part of NFP technique is "contraceptive" in your understanding? I agree with Tim J. that you are using that term incorrectly.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Inocencio

"It cannot be denied that in each case the married couple, for acceptable reasons, are both perfectly clear in their intention to avoid children and wish to make sure that none will result. But it is equally true that it is exclusively in the former case that husband and wife are ready to abstain from intercourse during the fertile period as often as for reasonable motives the birth of another child is not desirable. And when the infertile period recurs, they use their married intimacy to express their mutual love and safeguard their fidelity toward one another. In doing this they certainly give proof of a true and authentic love." Recourse to Infertile Periods, Humanae Vitae

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Tim J.

"...I can see how an indigent couple who do not have much and can't support themselves even; how because they cannot afford to have a baby, actually use NFP for this very purpose (i.e., to prevent a pregnancy) because of the proper care they're unable to provide that child should they end up having one."

Again, I would say that "preventing pregnancy" is not really what is happening. One is (for a time) not choosing to GET pregnant, but there is no contraception taking place. A condom, the pill, withdrawal, sterilization... ALL attempt to "prevent pregnancy" by seperating the unitive and the procreative aspects of the conjugal act. NFP leaves these two aspects together intact... it just leaves them both aside for a time. They are never isolated from one another.

In the end it is YOUR judgement to make, in YOUR circumstances, with YOUR wife. I'm sure it would help to get some advice from a trusted (orthodox) spiritual advisor, but the call is yours to make in good conscience.

Esau

Tim J.:
Thanks for the thoughtful response as always Tim! God bless you!

Tim J.

Incidentally, Esau, my wife and I (okay, mostly her) have had great success using NFP, both to space births AND to get pregnant!

If used properly, NFP is no "roll of the dice". It is quite effective. The thing is for the marriage to be open to life generally, and to be open to any child that might come along... surprise or otherwise!

M.Z. Forrest

Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means. HV 14

contraceptive: tending or serving to prevent conception or impregnation.

bill912

Tim, do you mean to say that you and your wife actually have the audacity to believe that God knows better than you what's best for you? What's wrong with you two? You are way behind the times!

Tim J.

MZ,

How does NFP take any action "either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse," that is "specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means."?

SDG

contraceptive: tending or serving to prevent conception or impregnation.

If that's meant to apply to NFP, you still aren't dealing with the distinction between preventing and avoiding.

Here's another example:

A person on a diet who chooses not to binge on chocolate cake is avoiding the unwanted absorption of fat and calories. A person who chooses to binge on the cake and then induce purging is preventing the unwanted absorption of fat and calories.

See the difference?

It's the same with NFP and contraception. NFP is regulating your diet. Contraception is sexual bulimia.

Esau

Thanks, Tim J., for the info!
This really helps!

Actually, I have no problems with NFP itself. I believe that it's a good thing for obvious reasons.

I was just concerned with the difficult situation faced by the couple in my scenario.

God bless and Congratz on such a wonderful and blessed family life! God must be smiling on you, brother!

M.Z. Forrest

The survey of body temperatures can most certainly be used to prevent conception. That is the biggest selling point of NFP.

SDG, your analogy doesn't hold. More apt would be waiting 14 days and eating all the chocolate cake you want.

bill912

Excellent analogy, SDG. Extremely clear.

Inocencio

M.Z. Forrest,

Survey of body temperatures is used to know the fertility then a husband and wife choose to abstain that is not contraception in anyway because it does not frustrate the natural course of the conjugal act.

The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.Humanae Vitae, 11

Humanae Vitae does not regard recouse to infertile periods as contraceptive. Period.

If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles which We have just explained.

And Casti Connubii also states virtuous continence (which Christian law permits in matrimony when both parties consent)#53

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Inocencio

oops italics off

Inocencio

little help

GUEST

Huh???>

Esau

Fixed.

Dr. Eric

How's that?

Dr. Eric

Rats!

Ya beat me to it!

Inocencio

Thank you, Guest!

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Esau

Thank you, Guest!

Actually, that was me.

Tim J.

"SDG, your analogy doesn't hold. More apt would be waiting 14 days and eating all the chocolate cake you want."

Wha???

The Church clearly teaches that IF you MUST regulate the births of your children, NFP is a completely moral way of accomplishing that.

Attending Mass is an intrinsic good, a blessing, and a moral duty - like having children within marriage. That does not mean that there are not legitimate reasons NOT to go to Mass on a particular day. Receiving communion at home is a perfectly legitimate way of receiving Christ IF one cannot go to Mass. Like NFP, it is a morally licit, fruitful and blessed alternative IF the preferred option (going to Mass) is not possible for some reason, or would create undue hardship.

No one is arguing that NFP may be used for any reason, or that it is as good as having children, just as no one would argue (well, no real Catholic) that communion at home is all the same as going to Mass.

If one were just too LAZY to get up and go to Mass, then insisting on communion at home would be a grave sin, but it is certainly nothing like a sin to ask for it when attending Mass is not a real option. Same goes for NFP.

M.Z. Forrest

The Church clearly teaches that IF you MUST regulate the births of your children, NFP is a completely moral way of accomplishing that.

Correct.

No one is arguing that NFP may be used for any reason...

Why not, if it does not have a contraceptive effect?

Analogy to Mass
Even if one were sick, participation in the mass would not be evil for someone. It would in fact be efficacious. It may not be proper to attend mass for other reasons. What is different is that someone can be completely abstinate and achieve moral good.

Innocenio
Why is there a requirement for "well-grounded reasons"? This is the conditional attached to your quotation.


SDG

SDG, your analogy doesn't hold. More apt would be waiting 14 days and eating all the chocolate cake you want.

Of course the analogy holds -- and it's hardly "mine." It's been around for a long time (usually the Roman vomitoriums are cited as a culturally accepted parallel for contraception today).

Actually, biological rhythms do play a role in regulating diet as well as sex life, only the relevant cycle is daily rather than monthly. Eating a big meal first thing in the morning is much "better" for your diet than eating a big meal right before bedtime.

"Waiting 14 days and eating all the chocolate cake you want" is a silly stab at a reductio. Eating and sex are both acts driven in part by appetite and serving a biological function, but we absolutely need food essentially every day in order to live, whereas we do not need sex at all in order to live, and don't need it anything like every day for a healthy marital life.

It is quite reasonable for a married couple to decide forego sex for a week to ten days, whereas deciding to fast for a week to ten days, while certainly possible, is necessarily extraordinary.

The larger point, though, is that in both cases there is a moral difference between avoiding and preventing. You still haven't dealt with this.

SDG

No one is arguing that NFP may be used for any reason...

Why not, if it does not have a contraceptive effect?

Because ends matter as well as means.

M.Z. Forrest

Because ends matter as well as means.
And the illict end is...

Inocencio

M.Z. Forrest,

The CCC explains it:

2368 A particular aspect of this responsibility concerns the regulation of procreation. For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood. Moreover, they should conform their behavior to the objective criteria of morality:


When it is a question of harmonizing married love with the responsible transmission of life, the morality of the behavior does not depend on sincere intention and evaluation of motives alone; but it must be determined by objective criteria, criteria drawn from the nature of the person and his acts criteria that respect the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love; this is possible only if the virtue of married chastity is practiced with sincerity of heart.

Again, recourse to infertile periods is not 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.158 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:159

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.160

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Tim J.

If contraception is a sin, and NFP is contraception, then NFP is forbidden NO MATTER what kind of reasons one might have. There could never be a proportionate reason to use it!

The fact that - for serious reasons - a couple avoids intercourse at fertile times to regulate births does not oblige them to avoid the conjugal act during infertile times.

Inocencio

"When, instead, by means of recourse to periods of infertility, the couple respect the inseparable connection between the unitive and procreative meanings of human sexuality, they are acting as "ministers" of God's plan and they "benefit from" their sexuality according to the original dynamism of "total" selfgiving, without manipulation or alteration." FAMILIARIS CONSORTIO 32,
OF POPE JOHN PAUL II

I suggest reading all of section 32 of FAMILIARIS CONSORTIO

Because the difference between contraception and natural rhythms are in contrast to one another and irreconcilable concepts.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

M.Z. Forrest

I did not claim NFP was contraception. I said NFP has a contraceptive effect. Ecological breastfeeding has a contraceptive effect. The fact that these do have contraceptive effects does not mean they are being used as contraception.

Barrier methods are intrinsically contraceptive. Premature withdrawal is intrinsically contraceptive. It is impossible to perform a sex act without them which make them intrinsic to the act. They are the object and are illicit and therefore intrinsically evil.

Sex that occurs as a result of using NFP in birth avoidance when it lacks proportionate reason or as DS puts it "acceptable reason[]" is objectively evil. It is evil by intention. The object of the act in impugned.

M.Z. Forrest

The object of the act in impugned.
Err. The object of the act is not impugned.

Inocencio

Sex that occurs as a result of using NFP in birth avoidance when it lacks proportionate reason or as DS puts it "acceptable reason[]" is objectively evil. It is evil by intention. M.Z. Forrest

"When, instead, by means of recourse to periods of infertility, the couple respect the inseparable connection between the unitive and procreative meanings of human sexuality, they are acting as "ministers" of God's plan and they "benefit from" their sexuality according to the original dynamism of "total" selfgiving, without manipulation or alteration." Pope John Paul II

Enough said.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Inocencio

"Ecological breastfeeding has a contraceptive effect"

So a wife who decides to nurse her child specifically to naturally and responsibly space her children and avoid conception is commiting an obejectively evil act?

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

M.Z. Forrest

Innocenio,

Do you read what I actually write? If she is naturally and responsibly spacing her children then she has proportionate reason. Her intention is to responsibly space her children.

The situation being spoken is one where the couple "specifically intended to prevent procreation." With NFP one can intend many things. What is being denied by folks is that someone's whole intent in using NFP can be contraception. I'm not arguing the cases where that is not the specific intent. I'm arguing that the case exists where NFP is used as contraception.

You can quote papal texts all day saying that for proper reason NFP can be good. It isn't something I've denied.

Inocencio

M.Z. Forrest,

To Scientists

24. Our next appeal is to men of science. These can "considerably advance the welfare of marriage and the family and also peace of conscience, if by pooling their efforts they strive to elucidate more thoroughly the conditions favorable to a proper regulation of births." (28) It is supremely desirable, and this was also the mind of Pius XII, that medical science should by the study of natural rhythms succeed in determining a sufficiently secure basis for the chaste limitation of offspring. (29) In this way scientists, especially those who are Catholics, will by their research establish the truth of the Church's claim that "there can be no contradiction between two divine laws—that which governs the transmitting of life and that which governs the fostering of married love." (30)

Sex that occurs as a result of using NFP in birth avoidance when it lacks proportionate reason or as DS puts it "acceptable reason[]" is objectively evil. It is evil by intention.

There is a value in the marital union even in the time when conception does not or cannot occur. Please quote a papal text that says it is objectively evil so I can try to understand your position.

I still state that a married couple can use NFP with the intention to avoid conception by recourse to the infertile periords and not commit an objective evil.

"Neither the Church nor her doctrine is inconsistent when she considers it lawful for married people to take advantage of the infertile period but condemns as always unlawful the use of means which directly prevent conception, even when the reasons given for the later practice may appear to be upright and serious. In reality, these two cases are completely different.

...

It cannot be denied that in each case the married couple, for acceptable reasons, are both perfectly clear in their intention to avoid children and wish to make sure that none will result. But it is equally true that it is exclusively in the former case that husband and wife are ready to abstain from intercourse during the fertile period as often as for reasonable motives the birth of another child is not desirable. And when the infertile period recurs, they use their married intimacy to express their mutual love and safeguard their fidelity toward one another. In doing this they certainly give proof of a true and authentic love." Humanae Vitae 16

Again, I don't understand where you get the understanding that using the natural God-given rhythms of the body to specifically and intentionally avoid conception is committing an objectively evil act.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J


M.Z. Forrest

Inocencio,

I am not saying NFP is intrinsically evil. I'm saying it can be objectively evil. By itself, "using the natural God-given rhythms of the body to specifically and intentionally avoid conception" is not objectively evil. The objective criteria for determining whether using NFP is evil is the absense of "well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances."

SDG

And the illict end is...

Assuming I'm still following you, having a childless marriage is an illicit end even if pursued by the licit means of NFP.

M.Z. Forrest

SDG,

Mostly right. Seeking a childless marriage while maintaining an active sex life is an illicit end. I'm assuming that is what you meant. Complete abstinance is a form of penance and is righteous, assuming consent of both the parties.

SDG

Seeking a childless marriage while maintaining an active sex life is an illicit end. I'm assuming that is what you meant. Complete abstinance is a form of penance and is righteous, assuming consent of both the parties.

Well, I don't know that I'd call the decision to embrace Josephite marriage "seeking a childless marriage" exactly; if it comes to that, if a couple chose to embrace Josephite marriage specifically because they didn't want kids, and for no other reason, I'm not at all sure how cool that would be morally.

Having said that, of course by "even if pursued by the lawful means of NFP" I meant "as opposed to the illicit means of contraception," not "as opposed to those living Josephite marriages." So, yes, my statement did assume ordinary conjugal union.

Tim J.

MZ -

"Seeking a childless marriage while maintaining an active sex life is an illicit end.".

True, but not necessarily so for shorter spans of time. Having a "childless marriage" for the next several months does not mean that the couple must forego the conjugal act.

Correct?

M.Z. Forrest

One would assume they would have cause to delay for a few months. If I were priest, I wouldn't be overly inquisitorial if a congregant asked if it was okay to practice NFP for the next few months.

If I felt my wife and my child bearing years were now behind us, I would seek spiritual counsel to ensure that our intentions were just.

Inocencio

M.Z. Forrest,

So a married couple not having a well-grounded reason using the infertile periods commit an objectively evil act and are not fostering their married love?

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Inocencio

M.Z. Forrest,

The marital union is "noble and worthy" even in the time when conception does not or cannot occur.

"If I felt my wife and my child bearing years were now behind us, I would seek spiritual counsel to ensure that our intentions were just."

Observing the Natural Law

11. The sexual activity, in which husband and wife are intimately and chastely united with one another, through which human life is transmitted, is, as the recent Council recalled, "noble and worthy.'' (11) It does not, moreover, cease to be legitimate even when, for reasons independent of their will, it is foreseen to be infertile. For its natural adaptation to the expression and strengthening of the union of husband and wife is not thereby suppressed. The fact is, as experience shows, that new life is not the result of each and every act of sexual intercourse. God has wisely ordered laws of nature and the incidence of fertility in such a way that successive births are already naturally spaced through the inherent operation of these laws.
-Humanae Vitae

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

M.Z. Forrest

Note, "for reasons independent of their will, it is foreseen to be infertile". Forseen is double effect language. It does not say "for reasons independent of their will, it is 'intended' to be infertile." Even when the object of your act is not evil, you can intend evil by your actions.

Tim J.

I have to say that the very concept of lust within marriage was a huge eye-opener and a watershed for me.

This is not something I ever heard addressed as a Protestant, and sounds ridiculous to many people, but it is so true that even a married couple can be guilty of sinful lust toward one another.

The Theology of the Body is only going to become more relevant as time goes by.

Dr. Eric

What would constitute lust in a marriage?

I've heard that sometimes a large number of children is due to the lust of the husband who won't wait until after ovulation.

So it would seem that waiting for 2-3 weeks after the start of menses is a form of "fasting" if you will.

In the East, marital relations are supposed to be fasted from every Wednesday and Friday, from Midnight before Divine Liturgy, throughout the 40 days before Christmas, the 45+ days before Easter, 14 days before the Assumption, 14 days before the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Holy Week, and a few more that I can't remember off the top of my head.

In total, there are 180 fast/abstinence days of the Eastern Calendar. One is supposed to not eat any meat, dairy, eggs, anything with a backbone, wine, oil, or have sexual relations.

So in a way, following the NFP rules is a form of self discipline and a noble one at that. Do you know how beautiful my wife is? (Of course you don't, but believe me she is!!!)
:-)

Esau

I have to say that the very concept of lust within marriage was a huge eye-opener and a watershed for me.

This is not something I ever heard addressed as a Protestant, and sounds ridiculous to many people, but it is so true that even a married couple can be guilty of sinful lust toward one another.

The Theology of the Body is only going to become more relevant as time goes by.

Tim J.:

Truer words were never spoken, brother!

As usual, your wisdom shines forth!

I, myself, had thought along similar lines in the context of 1 Cor 7:9 below.

1 Cor 7:9 But if they do not contain themselves, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to be burnt.

That is, I had thought that once married, such lust was excusable and, in fact, was the very point of the above passage while during my time in Protestant church with my friends at college.

Tim J.

"What would constitute lust in a marriage?"

Well, we probably couldn't (or shouldn't) go into it on a blog, but I would just say that lust is self-centered, where the marital act should be an instance of mutual giving.

Lust seeks to take, love seeks to give.

Unchecked lust eventually devolves to the point that what is lusted for is lust itself.

Inocencio

Tim J.,

Nicely said.

Pope John Paul II in the Theology of the body taught that the opposite of the verb "to love" is "to use.

Dietrich von Hildebrand wrote a book called LOVE, MARRIAGE AND THE CATHOLIC CONSCIENCE Understanding the Church's Teachings on Birth Control that is in my humble opinion a beautiful explanation of married love.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

John

At least we are having a reasonable and vigorous discussion, which is good.

Some thoughts:

The story of Onan is troubling. He was struck dead because he took steps to avoid impregnating his brother's wife.

Does a Catholic man have a duty, or even the right, to marry his widowed sister-in-law? Isn't that what caused the trouble with Henry VIII and the Pope? Henry had married Catherine, who was the widow of his brother, Arthur, and needed a dispensation from Pope Julius to do so.

Today, Henry VIII probably could have gotten an annulment from his local diocesan marriage tribunal without any trouble. Being inordinately hung up on the need for a male heir, he obviously entered into marriage with the wrong attitude, preventing the occurrence of a valid sacramental union. And he might have gotten annulment back then if Catherine's nephew, Charles, the King of Spain, had not been laying siege to Rome. Look up the history.

But I digress. Getting back to Onan, what if he was already married? Does he still have a duty to marry his brother's widow? The Bible, at best, is ambiguous on the subject of polygamy. Further, did the widow have any say in the matter?

The Onan story answers none of these questions, and for all of these reasons, I find the Onan story to be of dubious value in formulating a guide to moral conduct in our society.

We are not Fundamentalists, and we are not required to take the Bible absolutely literally, so we need to avoid picking and choosing passages out of context that may or may not be relevant to the question under discussion. We believe in a church that has divinely-granted and divinely-inspired teaching authority, which implies the existence of scholarly and good faith discussion on nearly all topics.

As for the refugee example cited in earlier posts, the hypothetical facts imply that there is no time to wait for the infertile period. It is either now or never. Are we prepared to say that, under such circumstances, the only moral choice is (a) abstain or (b) have sexual relations likely to produce a child who cannot be cared for? Assuming they both survive, there will always be time to have children under better circumstances.

By the way, the church has never claimed that Humanae Vitae is an "infallible pronouncement," and it does not meet the test for an infallible statement in any event. Thus, in theory at least, it is subject to modification in the future.

Esau

JOHN:

Look in Genesis regarding the story of Onan who was struck down because of his contraceptive activity. In the ancient world, at least, in Israel, if a man died without leaving children, it was the responsibility of the Levere, the ‘brother-in-law’ (his brother), to marry the widow so that they could have conjugal relations and, then, the children that were born of that union would be reckoned as the children of the man who had died. So, they‘d legally be his children. It’s kind of a posthumous adoption by the dead father, dead adoptive father.

Now, Onan married his dead brother’s widow, but he 'frustrated their conjugal union' so that children would not issue from it. As a result – and it says, specifically, he did that because he knew the children wouldn’t be his. So, what we have here is the case of a man who, for selfish reasons, is engaging in conjugal relations but is frustrating them for what is basically a selfish reason: he doesn’t want to raise up children for his brother.

Well, that’s what goes on an awful lot of the time in contraceptive situations today. I mean, Onan was practicing a form of contraception and he was doing it, wanting apparently to have the benefits – the personal benefit – of conjugal relations.

I mean, he could’ve refused to marry his brother’s widow, and the penalty of that in later centuries came to be, in the Mosaic Law, a kind of public humiliation where the widow would then yank off his sandal in public and spit in his face and it would be a sign of shame on him, that he had refused to fulfill his obligation as a Levere by taking the woman to wife; and he would then be known as 'the one who had his sandal pulled off'. So it was a kind of public humiliation. That’s the penalty that’s prescribed for refusing the Levorite marriage in the Mosaic Law.

This gives an indication of the level of gravity that God assigned to this obligation. It didn’t carry capital punishment though. There are a lot of things in the Mosaic Law that carried capital punishment, but refusing to fulfill your obligation as a Levere was not one of them. The penalty for that is humiliation.

But, Onan suffered much worse than humiliation – he actually did suffer death – it would seem to me that his crime went beyond merely refusing to fulfill the obligations of a Levere and it seems to me that the added component he did which resulted in him being struck down was the fact that he engaged in conjugal relations (he didn’t have to do that, he could have refused to marry her or he could have not engaged in them even if he did marry her and he would have only been shamed) AND he indulged in them AND, most importantly, deliberately frustrated them.

Thus, he committed contraceptive sex acts and, it seems to me, that’s the added element in his situation that kicks his retribution up to the level of being struck down – what he did was gravely wrong – as opposed to merely being publicly shamed.

Brother Cadfael

John,

By the way, the church has never claimed that Humanae Vitae is an "infallible pronouncement," and it does not meet the test for an infallible statement in any event.

To be clear, documents are not infallible. Statements and teachings contained within documents are, if the Church clearly intends them to be. See this excerpt from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

For example, in the lengthy Bull of Pius IX defining the Immaculate Conception the strictly definitive and infallible portion is comprised in a sentence or two; and the same is true in many cases in regard to conciliar decisions. The merely argumentative and justificatory statements embodied in definitive judgments, however true and authoritative they may be, are not covered by the guarantee of infallibility which attaches to the strictly definitive sentences -- unless, indeed, their infallibility has been previously or subsequently established by an independent decision.

As to the test for infallibility, the Church sets it out in sec. 749 of the Code of Canon Law. The following excerpt would apply to papal proclamations (such as Humanae Vitae):

proclaims by definitive act that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held.

Here is an excerpt from HV:

14. Therefore We base Our words on the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage when We are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children. (14) Equally to be condemned, as the magisterium of the Church has affirmed on many occasions, is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary. (15)

Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means. (16)

Neither is it valid to argue, as a justification for sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive, that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one, or that such intercourse would merge with procreative acts of past and future to form a single entity, and so be qualified by exactly the same moral goodness as these. Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good," it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it (18)—in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general. Consequently, it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong.

Sounds pretty definitive to me.

Tim J.

"We believe in a church that has divinely-granted and divinely-inspired teaching authority..."

It logically follows, then, that it is IMPOSSIBLE that the Church can contradict herself. Like reversing past authentic teachings, for instance.

"...which implies the existence of scholarly and good faith discussion on nearly all topics."

Which ones, in your opinion, are NOT open to discussion, John?

"Are we prepared to say that, under such circumstances, the only moral choice is (a) abstain or (b) have sexual relations likely to produce a child who cannot be cared for? "

Yes.

If Humanae Vitae does not (in your view) enjoy the status of infallibility, it AT LEAST carries the authority of the magisterium, and demands the ascent of faith.

Tim J.

Sorry, that's "ASSENT of faith".

John

I agree (1) that Humanae Vitae makes definitive statements, (2) that it is at least entitled to respect, and (3) that it is not likely to be changed in the near future, but not all definitive statements meet the test of infallibility.

The First Vatican Council defined the doctrine of papal infallibility as follows (and this is copied from the Vatican's website):

"When the Roman Pontiff speaks ex cathedra, that is, when in exercising his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians he defines with his supreme apostolic authority that a doctrine on faith and morals is to be held by the whole Church, through the divine assistance promised him in the person of St. Peter, he enjoys that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer wished to endow his Church in defining a doctrine on faith and morals. Therefore, these definitions of the Roman Pontiff are unreformable per se, and not because of the Church's consent" (DS 3074).

Thus, in order for a statement to be infallible, a two-step process is required. The Pope must first define the doctrine and then he must expressly declare that the doctrine so defined is to be held by the whole church. Humanae Vitae meets the first step, but it does not take the second step.

Since the doctrine of papal infallibility was formally defined in 1870, there has been only one infallible pronouncement. That occurred in 1950, when Pope Pius XII declared that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven. There is no mistaking that Pius XII made an infallible pronouncement. It expressly says that it is, and it explicitly imposes anathema on anyone who does not believe in the dogma of the Assumption. There is no such declaration in Humanae Vitae.

The 1950 statement is interesting for another reason. It avoids taking a position on whether Mary died before she was assumed into heaven. This is because the Western Church and the Eastern Church have different traditions on this point. So the statement merely says "at the end of her earthly existence" or words to that effect, she was assumed body and soul into heaven.

Quite wisely, the Pope uses the power to make infallible pronouncements very sparingly (there have been none in over 50 years and only two since 1854, not counting the Vatican I definition document). The 1854 document, by Pius IX, defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. It too imposes anathema and excommunication on anyone who does not believe in the Immaculate Conception (which, of course, is an entirely separate concept from the Virgin Birth).

Esau

JOHN:

You have provided many good points in your post.

As regards Infallible Teachings:

You're right. For example, there is a kind of language that he (the Pope) must use. That is, he must make clear a number of facts and declare he is speaking with his supreme authority (i.e., ex cathedra) and that he’s intending to settle a question on Faith and Morals for all of the Faithful, period -- there is no more dispute.

Now, of course, that’s a very uncommon thing for Popes to do -- at least, in making doctrinal statements. Incidentally, saint canonizations are infallible, too. Therefore, you actually have had a significant number of infallible statements made regarding saint canonizations; but beyond that, in terms of purely doctrinal statements or pure moral statements, it hasn't been that common.

Over the centuries, there has arisen a form of language that Popes use when they do declare something as being infallible and they actually tend to pile on a lot of really flowery language when they’re building up to a certain definition in order to set the stage and make it clear that they’re really invoking all of their authority here. They’ll even specifically say, “By my authority as the Successor of Peter who confirms his brethren in the Faith” and stuff like that.

Two obvious ones, as you've mentioned, are the definitions of “Immaculate Conception” and “The Assumption of Mary”, which are in documents called “INEFFABILIS DEUS” and “MUNIFICENTISSIMUS DEUS”.

The “money” word that you look for in such infallible documents is “I define”. If a Pope says, “I define” something -- this becomes a statement, by definition, that brings all controversies to an end forever. If the papal statement demonstrates words to that effect, “I define”, then you’ve got an infallible statement by a Pope. However, as mentioned, those aren’t that common outside of saint canonizations.


Regarding: Ordinary Teaching of the Church

Of course, everything in an encyclical letter is not necessarily ex cathedra, obviously. A Pope, as previously indicated, would have to say that he is defining something for Catholics for all time in order for a document to be declared infallible, among other things (e.g., those already mentioned).
However, when a Pope teaches something in an encyclical letter, it is no longer up for grabs. It’s no longer a matter for open season that we can reject and so forth because that becomes a teaching of the Church on what we call the Ordinary level.

Now, theoretically, the ordinary teaching authority of the Pope is not infallible and, therefore, it can be changed by a future Pope and such. However, I would emphasize that doesn’t mean we’re free to reject what a Pope teaches on the Ordinary level. That’s a quick reply to the your post.

Tim J.

"I agree (1) that Humanae Vitae makes definitive statements, (2) that it is at least entitled to respect..."

Not "respect", it demands the assent of faith, whether it meets the technical requirements for infallibility or not.

" ...and (3) that it is not likely to be changed in the near future..."

If anything, it is likely to be affirmed in the near future. It is affirmed by reason and sound theology daily. JP II's Theology of the body expounds on it, and that body of work is only beginning to show its influence.

Don't hold your breath waiting for the Church to reverse this well established doctrine.

Mary

"Seeking a childless marriage while maintaining an active sex life is an illicit end.".

True, but not necessarily so for shorter spans of time. Having a "childless marriage" for the next several months does not mean that the couple must forego the conjugal act.

Correct?

Er -- no, and no.

For adequately grave reasons, a married couple can attempt to avoid having children for their entire married life, while still engaging in sexual intercourse. Let us suppose that a couple know they could give a child a fatal genetic illness, but have concluded that they are not among those to whom the gift of celibacy have been given; if they are open to accepting any "accidents" they may certainly engage in sexual intercourse. Indeed, it may be their duty to engage in sexual intercourse, to fortify themselves against sexual temptation.

Conversely, if you just feel like not having children for the next few months -- say, you want to look better in a bikini -- it can be sinful to refrain for even a few months.

OTOH, the reasons for putting off a child a few months do not have to be equal to the reasons for refraining from ever conceiving a child.

Tim J.

"Conversely, if you just feel like not having children for the next few months -- say, you want to look better in a bikini -- it can be sinful to refrain for even a few months."

My statement was assuming that the couple desiring to put off children for a time (however long) had serious (not selfish) reasons for doing so.

"For adequately grave reasons, a married couple can attempt to avoid having children for their entire married life"

I'm not sure about that, but your qualification about them being open to "accidents" makes it sound reasonable.

That's just beyond my pay grade to figure out.

M.Z. Forrest

Let us suppose that a couple know they could give a child a fatal genetic illness, but have concluded that they are not among those to whom the gift of celibacy have been given; if they are open to accepting any "accidents" they may certainly engage in sexual intercourse.

If the marriage cannot be licitly consumated - that would be grounds for not consummating the marriage - the marriage should be annulled or the couple should live in perfect continence.

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