Tuesday, June 28, 2005

miroslav volf -- 'the gift of infertility'

This is a touching and provocative piece. I post it for those reasons, and because I am fond of Dr. Volf and think he is one of the most talented theologians writing these days. The piece makes me think about my attitudes to artificial contraception -- though I continue to believe that the official RC position is incorrect. In any event, thank you, Fr. Harmon. Read the whole thing here.

Infertility—a gift!? Poison and a curse—that's how this unexplained infertility of ours felt to me for what seemed like an eternity. Nine years of trying to have a child of our own was like having to drink bitter waters from a poisoned well month after month. Nothing could break the sinister hold of barrenness on our lives, not strict adherence to whatever expert advice we could get, not prayer, not the latest infertility techniques, not fasting, nothing....

....The season of Advent was the worst. "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given," I would hear read or sung in hundreds of different variations. But from me a child was withheld. The miracle of Mary's conception, the rejoicing of the heavens at her newborn child, the exultation of Elizabeth all became signs of God's painful absence, not God's advent....


J-Tron said...

That is a powerful piece. Thank you for posting it.

What about it made you think about the RC position on contraception? I'm not sure I see the relation. Although I agree that the RC position on contraception is flawed.

father wb said...

Because its about the inscrutable nature of God's providence, and the main premise in the RC argument against artificial contraception is about how couples should be open to God's plan for them, even though his plan might not be their plan. Volf's piece is a poignant illustration of this -- though in the opposite direction (i.e. infertility as providential; not fertility).

For the record, as I understand it, the RC argument runs something like this:

1. If sex is to be good, then it should be undertaken with openess to the possibility of procreation.

2. The employment of artificial contraception manifests an unopeness to the possibility of procreation.

3. Therefore, using artificial contraception renders sex not good. (Modus Tollens)

The problem is when they then say: "but you can use 'natural family planning'. And they claim that NFP is even more effective than, say, condoms. But if that is so, then using NFP means that you are having sex without being open to the possibility of procreation, and therefore NFP should also render sex not-good.

Seperately, I think 'the pill' is bad because it fouls up women's hormones in pretty serious ways. And as you might expect, I think 'morning after pills' are bad because they induce abortion. But I don't think its wrong for married couples to use, for example, barrier methods. And I think NFP is probably the best thing, as it requires self-control and abstinence sometimes. And it forces a husband to take an interest in his wife's cycle.

Philip said...


You represent the RC position well. The encyclical you speak of is Humanae Vitae.


Anonymous said...

Volf's piece strikes home. Such folk as Abraham, Sarah, Elkanah and Hanah knew children are a Divine gift Ps 127:3). A spouse (marriage) and celibacy (singleness) are alike gifts. So, "having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us..." (Rom 12:6)would indicate a particular "grace" (also a gift) that makes us "right" for the gift given.

LIke the Volf's my wife and I also waited 9 yrs not to be disappointed. We were given only one...but the BEST one! We wouldn't have it any other way. As J.S. Bach entitled a work, "What God hath done is rightly done!" --- lvDDX

The young fogey said...

My position on contraception.