Please stop saying “my cycle” when you mean “my period.” It matters.

The following essay is about the menstrual cycle, and what I have to say is just as much for men as it is for women. 

I recently had the most frustrating visit with my OB/GYN. It’s probably not what you think. She listened to me carefully, treated me with respect, explained things thoroughly, and was interested and responsive when I told her how Marquette NFP works, even when I touched on the principle of double effect in medical care. She didn’t even poke me too hard; and my insurance covered everything. 

The frustration came in when she had to repeatedly clarify that when I said “my cycle,” I didn’t mean “my menstrual period.” They are two different things. My menstrual period — the days when I am bleeding — are part of my cycle. But a cycle is, by definition, “a series of events that are regularly repeated in the same order.” In female biology, a cycle means the repeating pattern of four phases: menstrual bleeding, the follicular phase leading up to ovulation, ovulation, and luteal phase, ramping down from ovulation. 

But this doctor regularly treats women who use “menstrual bleeding” and “cycle” interchangeably. This led to a frustrating conversation that went something like this:

Me: So, my period started on this day. That cycle was 22 days long. . .
OB/GYN: Wow, that is so long!
Me: No, I only bled for four days, but my cycle was 22 days. Then the next cycle was only 17 days . . .
OB/GYN: But you weren’t bleeding for 17 days? 
Me: No, the cycle was 17 days, but my period lasted five days. Then the cycle after that was 26 days . . . 
OB: Okay, just to clarify . . .
 
And so on, throughout the whole visit. 
 
It wasn’t her fault. She needed to make sure we both knew what we were talking about (and she had no way of knowing I literally wrote a book about this stuff).
 
Part of the reason this situation exists is just linguistic sloppiness. Most of the time, women only have reason to refer to their cycles when they are bleeding, so the shorthand is close enough.
 
The other reason is cultural squeamishness, or even shame, around women’s biology. “Menstrual bleeding” or even “my period” sounds too graphic and bloody, and it’s more socially acceptable to say “my cycle.” It makes it more abstract, like part of a machine, or something on a pie chart.
 
I hate that this feels necessary to so many women — that they feel the need to make their bodies seem abstract or mechanical. Men aren’t ashamed to talk about their involuntary bodily functions. Many men even seem proud of them, for reasons that remain obscure to me. But women, who suffer through a huge amount of tumult and pain that allows them to keep the human race in existence still feel shame about their menstrual cycles.
 
This is a larger problem than a linguistic one. I don’t think it’s necessary to run around free bleeding, but I grow more and more disgusted with the idea that women should be at pains to shield the world from knowing anything about menses. 
 

Because that really is what happens: women and girls are taught that it’s their problem to bear, and part of the burden is the obligation to make sure no one finds out what they’re dealing with. In very conservative circles, girls are often taught to think of their bodily processes as a humiliating, degrading stain on their personhood, evidence of their constitutional, inherent weakness inherited from Eve. In liberal circles, girls are often taught to think of their bodily processes as a hassle, or possibly a sign of oppression, something that, with modern technology, we will quash if we have any self resect or ambition. 

A young woman I know went to see her doctor because she has very irregular cycles. She says sometimes she goes many months without a period. The doctor’s response?

“Is this really a problem? Lots of girls would be thrilled to go so long without dealing with bleeding! Can’t you just learn to enjoy getting a break?”

Not even a speck of curiosity as to why the young woman’s body wasn’t doing what her body is supposed to do. And this doctor was a young woman herself.

On my advice, the patient pushed for some basic blood tests, but when these came back negative, the doctor shrugged and gave up. Happily, the young woman was able to find a specialist who takes a more humane view, and didn’t try to wave her disfunction away.

If mainstream doctors are so flippantly ignorant about what is and isn’t normal, it’s no wonder women, young and otherwise, have only a vague understanding of what it means to have a cycle. Because of this willful systemic ignorance, serious health problems will go undiagnosed, causing women to routinely endure overmedication, undermedication, and a whole host of physical and psychological problems that may be unnecessary. The fact that women are discouraged from even talking about it in plain language? This is telling, and it is intolerable. 
 

I don’t assume that every woman who carelessly says “my cycle” when she really means “my period” is ignorant or oppressed or suffering from internalized shame of some kind. People have all different reasons for using imprecise language.

But I do think women would do the world (not just each other) a service by making a point of being more precise in this one area. When I realized, “There is no reason to use vague language when talking about my menses,” I was astonished at how many little knots in my perception of myself started to come undone. Almost as if the thing that goes on literally in the middle of my body affects my psyche.
 
Strangely enough, it was my husband who led me to be less squirrelly about how I talk and think about menstrual issues. He made it clear to me, over and over again, that he’s not going to throw up or lose his mind if I talk about my period. He’s not a “It’s our nausea” kind of guy, but he doesn’t feel like he has some kind of masculine right to be protected from knowing about something that affects my life (and our relationship) so intensely and so often. He loves me, and doesn’t want me to be ashamed about something that’s not shameful. 
 

I’m not big on vulgar jokes about menstrual issues, and there are situations where it’s just courteous to be discreet. But if you do have a habit of always using euphemisms or imprecise language around your menstrual cycle, it’s not a bad idea to ask yourself why. What would happen if you got more specific? Are you protecting someone? Who, and why? Are you afraid something bad will happen if your speech is forthright?

And if something bad will happen, whose fault is that, and why shouldn’t they be pressed to be better? 
 
 

Asking couples to use NFP is asking a lot. Can’t the Church help more?

It is no secret: Natural family planning has its discontents. A number of studies have shown that few Catholics use it, and it is not hard to see why. N.F.P. can be difficult, it can be frustrating, and occasionally it is impossible. I am a discontent myself, albeit a stubbornly faithful one, which is why I wrote a whole book about how ordinary, non-saintly couples can learn to navigate the spiritual, emotional and marital problems that N.F.P. sometimes brings into sharp focus.

N.F.P. is worth learning well and sticking with, despite all the trials it can bring. When we were first married, my husband and I did not know how to communicate well. We did not understand what sex was really about. We had no clue about how God’s will actually works in our lives. Sacrificial patience, generosity and transformative suffering were mysteries to us. They are not mysteries now but are daily practices, thanks in part to the rigors of N.F.P. I wrote my book to let other struggling couples know they are not alone, and that their suffering does not have to be in vain.

But one thing my book did not cover was the logistical obstacles to using fertility awareness based methods of family planning successfully. (Most now shy away from the more colloquial label N.F.P.) These obstacles are not negligible. It was not long ago that we desperately wanted to switch to another fertility awareness based method that would work better with my body, but we simply did not have the money; so we were stuck with an unsuitable method that caused frustration and confusion. Some struggling is inevitable and can bring about growth; but some is avoidable and causes only pain. A small cash grant would have made a world of difference for our family.

I wondered how common our experience was; so I designed some surveys and shared them on social media and on my personal website, targeting women who use or have used a wide range of different forms of fertility awareness methods. Nearly 700 women responded. Here is what I learned.

Some women love N.F.P. Some of them find it cheap and simple and empowering. Some of them find it pricey and labor intensive, but well worth the cost. Some of them say it healed their bodies, enriched their marriages and drew them closer to God.

But for others, N.F.P. brought one trial after another. The church teaches us to forgo birth control, and so they did, whether out of obedience, love of spouse or a desire to understand their own health better. But even if they were willing to take on the spiritual and psychological challenges of N.F.P., they found themselves stymied by logistical problems beyond their control—things that could easily be solved with something as mundane as money, or better marketing, or better organization or even something as simple as a babysitter.

Oddly enough, even as the church struggles to interest its flock in fertility awareness based methods for spiritual reasons, fertility awareness is having a moment in the secular world. Cosmopolitan gave N.F.P. some positive press, and so did The New York Times. The interest is fuelled partly by a slow but growing disenchantment with artificial contraception among women of a variety of backgrounds and faiths. There are now countless fertility awareness based methods (usually paired with targeted condom use in secular circles) on the market; and women, religious or not, are snapping them up. You can buy bluetooth-enabled super-thermometers for $300 and compact fertility monitors straight out of Star Trek that smile at you when you are fertile. It is a far cry from the days of a scrap of graph paper, a thermometer and crossed fingers.

There are dozens of slick fertility apps, many free, some with millions of downloads. Women who have no idea that the church pioneered fertility awareness are turning to fertility awareness methods because they cannot seem to get pregnant or because they are thoroughly sick of birth control side-effects like migraines, blood clots or mood swings and wandering I.U.D.s; and they are ready for something else, something natural.

Here is the frustrating part. The church has something natural and effective to offer, and it is not some antiquated calendar system. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has approved a number of fertility awareness based methods: MarquetteCreightonBillingsSympto-Thermal, Boston Cross Check and N.F.P.I. The church is, in theory, delighted when a couple want to manage their fertility naturally. And many of these methods offer some level of personal instruction, which greatly increases their effectiveness. But because they can also come with some psychological, cultural and logistical baggage, women who have powered through the judgment of the secular world find themselves facing obstacles from within the church itself.

What Women Want

Given the church’s desire for couples to practice fertility awareness based methods, you might think every parish and diocese would offer numerous, easily accessible and affordable ways to learn these methods in order to use them consistently and reliably. You would be wrong.

It is a long history, and it would be funny if it were not so maddening. Back in 1932, Leo Latz, M.D., of Loyola University Chicago wrote his slim volume The Rhythm of Fertility and Sterility, outlining the basic principles of calendar-based family planning, so couples could learn to chart their fertility cycles quickly, easily and cheaply. It sold 600,000 copies to a readership ravenous for information.

Dr. Latz, for his trouble, was booted out of the university, a decision some historians attribute to his attempt to put dangerous information in the hot hands of so many married Catholics who might make decisions without the blessing of a priest.

Read the rest of my article for America Magazine

 Photo via Good Free Photos (Public Domain)

The financial cost of NFP and FAM. Please take my survey!

Everyone knows that barely any Catholics use NFP, because it’s hard and it’s counter-cultural. But even among those who are ready and willing, there can be obstacles. One of those obstacles is money. I’ve put together a survey to get an idea of how much of a problem money is for people who use or want to use NFP. The survey is anonymous, and I will use the information in an article I’m writing. 

It’s not a scientific survey, but I’m hoping to get enough responses to give me an idea of what is common around the country and the world. You don’t need to be Catholic to take the survey! It has seven questions, is anonymous, and should take about two minutes to complete. I’d be very grateful if you could take the survey and share it on social media or with anyone who might be interested. Here’s the link, or you can use the embedded widget below.

Follow-up question: What other obstacles might prevent you from using or trying NFP, besides money? Distance? Opportunity? Childcare? Cultural attitudes? What else? 

 

 
Create your own user feedback survey

Image Love for money (Free photobank torange.biz) / ©torange.biz Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Damien and I are on “This Catholic Life” with Peter Holmes and Renée Köhler-Ryan

This was so much fun! Damien and I were guests on the “This Catholic Life” podcast, co-hosted by of Peter Holmes and Renée Köhler-Ryan. Damien opens the show with an incredibly important question you won’t want to miss, and then we go on to discuss all sorts of issues surrounding NFP and sex and love and suffering and happiness and whatnot! And, not to be that person, but fully half the people on this episode have a completely adorable Australian accent.

You can listen to the episode here or on these platforms: iTunes, Google Play, Pocket Casts, Spotify, Stitcher, Anchor, TuneIn, Blubrry, Spreaker, Player.fm, Radio Public, Overcast

Damien and I went to college with Renee and it was a pure, pure pleasure to talk to her again. Hope we can do it again before another two decades elapse. 

The Golden Box: On God’s will and NFP

Sometimes, it’s easy to discern God’s will.

If we’re faced with the choice of, say, robbing a bank or not robbing a bank, we all know what God wants us to do. The only exception is if we’re in an action movie, where the villain has a bomb strapped to our hero and a school bus full of innocent children will die amid flames and wreckage if we don’t rob the bank (then the answer is: yes, rob the bank, preferably while shirtless and bleeding).

Most of the time, though, there’s no dilemma: follow the law,
and you’ll be following God’s will, QED. The same is true for the most specific, basic laws of the Church: go to Mass on Sundays, and you’re following God’s will. Confess all mortal sins, and you’re following God’s will. Don’t use contraception in your marriage, and you’re following God’s will, QED.

But when we’ve already rejected contraception and are trying to figure out whether or not to take the plunge and possibly conceive a child, things get muddier. After all, how could it be God’s will that we not have a child? When you phrase it that way, it seems absurd: what, is God going to be mad about hav ing to go to the trouble of making another soul? What, are we going to spend the rest of our lives saying, “Damn, I wish I’d spent those nine months taking classes on making flowers out of gum paste, instead of being pregnant with you, my child?” No, probably not.

All right, so if it’s not against God’s will for us to have a child, then it must be God’s will for us to have a child if we possibly can, right? That seems logical. Here’s an argument you often hear from fertility-nudgers: “What if you and your husband use NFP to avoid pregnancy one month, and that child you didn’t conceive is the child who would have cured cancer (or would have grown up to be the pope who reforms the Church, or the president who puts America back on track, or whatever)?”

Yes, what if? It’s not easy to refute this view. If we think hard about what we are turning down when we say, “No baby this month!” it’s kind of terrifying. When a hamster has a baby hamster, the most it can grow up to be is an adult hamster; so if the parents don’t breed, then it’s no big deal. But when a human couple conceives a child, that is something unutterably magnificent and irreplaceable (albeit common!). You don’t even have to mean it; you don’t have to understand it, but you’ve just made something with a soul that is destined for eternity. This… is a big deal.

How can you possibly say no to this? How could it possibly not be God’s will to conceive?

I’m going to answer your question in the most annoying way possible: by suggesting that it’s a stupid question.

Most of my life, I’ve been halfway imagining that my life is a maze, and at the center of that maze is a pedestal. On the pedestal is a golden box marked (perhaps in Latin) “GOD’S WILL.” At the end of my life, I will reach the center of the maze, and I will open up the box and read what’s written on a piece of paper inside, and it will say either “Good job!” or “Nope.”

And then, presumably, I will spend the rest of eternity either
patting myself on the back or weeping and gnashing my teeth. Oh, the suspense!

When I describe the process of following God’s will this way, it’s pretty easy to see that this is silly: God didn’t give us free will as some kind of elaborate game of “gotcha,” where we stumble around in the dark while He kicks back and giggles at how silly we all look, bumping into walls. If you think God is like that, then you haven’t talked to Him lately. Or looked at a crucifix.

So how does God’s will work in conjunction with our free will? I don’t actually know. But I do know this: it’s rare for there to be one single thing which God Wants Us to Do, to the exclusion of all other things.

It’s more like when a patient mother, tired of her toddler’s in- decision, picks out three shirts which she thinks are acceptable, and says, “Okay, it’s up to you—which one do you want to wear?” If he stamps his feet and insists on going to the grocery store wearing a torn pillow case, then clearly that’s not what his mom wants; but if he chooses the truck shirt, or the bear one, or the one with green stripes, then she will work with him, and find some pants that match. She will let him suffer the tolerable consequences if the bear one is a little too warm for today, because maybe he’ll know better next time, and that means his choice was still a valuable one. The truck one and the stripy one also each have their benefits and drawbacks. She will be happy if he chooses either one.

The truth is that there are many different things—even mutually exclusive things—that can be God’s will. To switch analogies: When getting to your destination, you might take the scenic route, or the route that gets you the best gas mileage, or the route that takes you through your old hometown, or the shortcut you accidentally discover because the kids were screaming in the back seat and you didn’t realize you missed your turn.

Is there such a thing as a wrong road? Yes, of course. Are any of the four I described above wrong roads? No. Are there benefits from taking one that you wouldn’t get from taking the others? Yes. But they will all get you there.

So, when we ask ourselves if it’s God’s will that we have another baby right now, it isn’t simply a matter of figuring out whether God (a) wants you to have a baby, or (b) wants you not to have a baby.

Yes, your choices about fertility heavily involve God’s will about bringing new life into the world (and sadly, they sometimes involve realizing that the road you’re on is a dark and lonely one, which will lead you to God’s will, but without the baby you longed for). But your choices also involve discerning God’s will about a number of other things—and that’s where the “scenic route vs.best mileage vs. sentimental value vs. blundering around” part comes in.

What are the other things we have to discern, besides “having a baby vs. not having a baby”?

We should try to discern if God wants us to learn self-control, or learn trust; if God wants us to focus more on the things around us, or focus more on the longterm view of our life; if God wants us to shower our spouse with extra care and attention for a time, or to stretch our concept of what our marriage is for; if God wants us to have a better understanding of generosity, or a better understanding of prudence; if He wants for us a better acceptance of our own limits, or more sympathy for the struggles of others. And so on.

These are all things which may well be within that golden box marked “God’s Will.”

One of the dreary misfortunes of living as a lonely Catholic in a world so hostile to babies is that, in our loneliness, we sometimes try to drag God down into our limited view of life: black-and-white, Lord. Just tell me what to do! But He’s probably not going to do that.

It’s not that God doesn’t care about what we do. It’s not that the little decisions (and the big ones) of our lives don’t matter to Him. They do. After all, He’s the one who made our lives this way, full of big and little pleasures and pains.

It’s just that what He wants for us is not necessarily tied, ahead of time, to one particular decision—even a decision as large as whether or not to have another child. What He wants, above all, is for us to grow closer to Him. He gives us space (and that’s what free will is: working space) to decide what makes sense, and then He says, “All right, kiddo. Let’s see what we can
do with that.”

So, we have our choices within a Catholic understanding of sexuality: we can throw caution to the wind and know as little as possible about when we are likely to conceive; we can chart somewhat, and be willing to take a chance; we can chart strictly, and understand that Sometimes Things Happen, and maybe we’ll conceive when we don’t especially want to; or we can abstain altogether. We can do any of these things, and conceive when we expect to, or when we don’t expect to. We can conceive and then lose a child. We can not conceive, and receive a child through adoption. We can do any of these things and move away from God; or we can do any of these things and grow closer to God.

That’s what’s at the heart of it: whether or not we grow closer to God.

So yes, of course there are bad choices. But there are also many, many, many good ones. Free will means having control over our own lives; it doesn’t mean having control over God. His will is not tethered to our decisions: He isn’t either gleefully or grudgingly willing to follow through with His part of the bargain. His will is larger than that, and we are smaller. And at the same time, we are more precious, much, much more precious to Him: His covenant has less “Okay, fine, be that way” and more “Go ahead, and let’s see what we can do!”

God’s will is not a checklist of do’s and don’ts, but a living, fluid, powerful force that somehow, inconceivably, finds its way into our puny seedling lives, nourishing us like the rain and making us grow and bear fruit.

So, if you insist on seeing life as a maze with a secret answer at the end, I’m going to spoil the surprise for you I already know what’s inside that golden box that says “God’s will.” There’s a little piece of paper, and on it is written your name.

That’s what He wants: you. How you give yourself to Him is a much, much longer story.

***
This essay is chapter 27 from my book, The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning. It is from the section called “NFP and Your Spiritual Life.” The other two sections are “NFP and the Rest of the World” and “NFP in the Trenches.” You can buy the paperback here, the ebook here, and the audiobook here

Sponsor Marquette NFP supplies for couples in need!

Okay, I forgot it was NFP Awareness Week. Just one of the many things about which I am sub-aware.

I usually host a ClearBlue fertility monitor giveaway, but here’s something even simpler: You can donate to a fund that helps couples buy monitors and test strips to use with Marquette model NFP. Marquette uses the ClearBlue Fertility Monitor to measure hormone levels in urine, to help you achieve or avoid pregnancy.  Basically, you pee in a cup once a day, dip a test strip in, stick the strip in the machine, and then it tells you what’s going on.

The fund was organized by Mikayla and Stephen Dalton. To contact them for more information about this fund, you can use this form:

or email them at NFPmission at gmail dot com.  Feel free to contact me if you have questions: simchafisher at gmail dot com.  

Right now they are not accepting new applications for assistance. There is a backlog of people they haven’t been able to help yet (they got 37 applications and could only fund 12); so any moneys collected will go toward helping those who have already applied. 

Mikayla is a Boston Cross Check instructor, and she’s the one who taught me how to use the monitor to track my cycles. She is an eminently forthright, practical, and generous person, and I trust this couple to do exactly what they say they will do with any funds donated.

I not only personally vouch for the Daltons, I can vouch for Marquette [gestures meaningfully and non-pregnantly toward our youngest child who four-and-a-half]. It has taken so much of the stress and subjectivity out of using NFP. For us, it’s been far easier to use, easier to understand, and more reliable than other methods we’ve used. I’m not bashing other methods. If your other method works well for you, wonderful! Enjoy! But some people only really find NFP manageable once they start using Marquette.  

It is more expensive than other systems, though. The monitor costs between $100 and $200, and a box of test strips costs about $35 (a box lasts me about 4 months, but this varies). It wasn’t long ago that this was completely out of our budget, and there are plenty of couples in the same boat. They really want to use NFP, but the odds are against them. 

So if you’re looking for a simple way to directly help another couple, please consider contacting the Daltons. Thanks! 

 

 

Help! Help! Humanae Vitae isn’t a rigorous logical treatise!

I don’t know anything else about Paul VI, so I don’t know if this was on purpose, or whether it tried and failed to make a logical argument. But whether it was intended to be a logical treatise or not, it isn’t one; so let’s stop trying to present it as one, and let’s stop complaining when we discover that it isn’t one.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

Contest winners + I’m on The Catholic Podcast with Joe Heschmeyer

Sorry for the delay in the list of winners! Everyone on this list has been notified using the email they provided to enter the contest.

Monday
Christine Dumouchel
Julie Von Rotz

Tuesday
Victoria Treboschi
Theresa Hardy

Wednesday
Lori Magelky
Stacia Demeulenaere

Thursday
Jamie Piper
Jake Casey
Jessica Marsh

Friday
Rachel Nesbitt
Debbie McGeehan
Catherine Burnham

If you entered and see your name here and haven’t seen an email from me, please check your junk folder, or make sure that you didn’t provide an obsolete email to Rafflecopter. (If you entered using Facebook, Rafflecopter showed me the email address that is associated with Facebook.)

Congratulations! And thank you so much, one more time, to all the generous sponsors. You are wonderful.

Next order of business: I had a wonderful (well, that’s how I remember it) conversation about NFP, Humanae Vitae, chastity, and Jell-o with Joe Heschmeyer of The Catholic Podcast (unfortunately Chloe Langr, the regular co-host, couldn’t be there). You can hear the podcast here, and check out tons of other resources we mentioned in the conversation.

 

NFP Awareness Week: Clearblue Fertility Monitor Giveaway #1 and #2

Here we are again! NFP Awareness Week. Here’s the deal: We love the Marquette method of NFP. It’s made NFP so much easier and has given us so much more confidence. And, like, Corrie is almost three-and-a-half and she is still the youngest, so.

But the monitor costs more than $100, and you have to buy a box of test strips every few months, too. For many years, we just couldn’t afford it, and I know plenty of people are in the same boat.

Happily, I have many generous friends, and ten of them have offered to sponsor a total of eleven monitors to give away, plus several boxes of test strips, plus instruction with one or possibly two instructors!

 

Today, we have two sponsors, each sponsoring a monitor and box of test strips to give away. One is my friend Tanya Cleary, and the other is an anonymous donor. Thanks so very much to them!

For my part, I will try to post a new, terrible graphic each day this week. It’s not easy, but I’m willing.

Today’s raffle is open only to US residents. There will be one prize for UK residents and one for Australia residents in the coming days.

The raffle details:

How do I enter? Use the Rafflecopter form below. It gives you several ways to enter. If the form doesn’t show up, click on the link that says “a Rafflecopter giveaway” at the bottom of the post. Only one prize per household.

How often can I enter? You may enter once per day, using as many ways of entering as you like (see form below for details). Two winners will be chosen per day. Each day is a separate raffle. Each raffle runs from midnight to midnight, eastern time.

Can I win if I live outside the US? Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are open only to US residents. On Thursday, there will be one prize for a US resident and one for a UK resident; and on Friday, there will be one prize for a US resident and one for an Australia resident.

When will winners be announced? I’ll choose two winners each day on Monday through Friday. I’ll announce all the winners on Friday, or possibly on Saturday if I am a terrible person.
If you are a winner, I will notify you using the address you provided to Rafflecopter.

Do I have to provide my actual email address, even though I worry that you will use it to steal my soul and then go on a shopping spree at Forever 21? Yes, please use an actual email address. I don’t even want your soul. Your valid email is the only way I have of getting in touch with you if you win, so please make sure that when you sign up for Rafflecopter, you use an active address! If I can’t get in touch with you, I’ll pick a different winner.

 

If the Rafflecopter form doesn’t show up below, here’s the link to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunshine, buttercups, and rainbow flags

I understand the idea of incrementalism. I understand accepting people where they are, accompanying them, and praying with them as they gradually become more open to the fullness of the truth, whether they’re deeply invested in a homosexual relationship or deeply invested in a contraceptive relationship. You can’t accompany someone unless they decide walk through the door, so you want that door to look as welcoming as possible. Plant flowers. Put a fresh coat of paint. Hang a rainbow flag. It is our job to be loving first, so as to make it possible for people to receive the law and then identify it as the same thing as love. I understand this.

But where do we draw the line between accompaniment and bait and switch?

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

Image by BookMama via Flickr (Creative Commons)