BY STEFAN GIGACZ
Drowned out in a continuing deluge of pope stories this last week was the death of Evelyn Billings, co-developer of the Billings Ovulation Method of natural family planning. As far as I can tell, among Australian papers, only her hometown paper The Age carried the news of her 15 February death. And even they were beaten to press by the French Catholic newspaper La Croix. Which, two weeks after I mentioned the work of her late husband John Billings, just goes to prove that no woman is a prophet in her own land either.
Francis Phillips in the UK Catholic Herald cites Joan Clements, director of WOOMB, who pointed out that in China, where the Billings trained thousands to teach their method:
“A substantial drop in the abortion rate has been attributed to their work.”The importance of the Billings’ apostolate can hardly be overstated."
Unlike so many other lay people in the Church, they took seriously Pope Paul VI’s call to “men and women of science, and physicians, to be obedient to the Lord’s call and to act as faithful interpreters of His plan”.
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I guess that one reason that it's been hard to promote NFP is that no-one has ever figured out how to make money out of it. On the other hand, each woman who goes off the pill and onto NFP "saves" the government how much? $20? per month in subsidies for a month's supply of the pill. It would interesting to try to put a dollar figure on the ongoing value of that contribution.
On the other hand, a post from Susan Kim at the Huffington Post in effect highlights another hidden value of NFP in a warning about the effects of oestrogen (from contraceptive pills) in the water supply:
Having just co-written a book about menstruation, I'm reminded of yet another lovely variation on the water pollution theme, one that's directly related to women's health and the choices we make as consumers. In recent years, there have been increasing reports about "intersex" animals that live in or near the water: male alligators with undersize penises, male fish that produce eggs as well as sperm, male sea birds with female traits. If you've been wondering about the dying-off of wild salmon populations in the Pacific northwest, look no further; increasingly, scientists are laying the blame on estrogen. Certain pesticides and compounds (the kinds commonly found in many cleaning agents, skincare products, and plastics) can mimic the actions of the potent female hormone; and these pollutants are routinely dumped, drained, washed off and released into our waterways every day in vast quantities. Even incredibly small traces of these compounds can induce partial sex changes in salmon, changes that ultimately affect the number of females born and eventually the overall population.
Obviously, much of this pollution occurs as a result of routine manufacturing and commercial farming. Yet we can't ignore the fact that another potent source of estrogen pollution in our water comes from our love of the Pill - next to condoms, the most popular form of birth control in the United States.
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Meanwhile, back to Pope Benedict. Less than three months after he opened his Twitter account, Pontifex will tweet for the last time this week as his account will close once his resignation takes effect.
Last chance to follow him here: https://twitter.com/Pontifex
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Professor Tracey Rowland is also back in view this week with her reflections on Benedict's resignation:
One also senses that in the papacy of Benedict XVI the Church had one of the greatest theologians occupying the Chair of Peter in centuries, but that for all his high intelligence, he never quite managed to contend with the bureaucratic machinery and it often let him down.
The decision to abdicate would not have been a decision made lightly given Benedict’s respect for historical precedent and the sacramental nature of his office. He is the last person on the planet to think of the papacy as a job. He never thought of himself as the CEO of a multinational corporation and he sharply rebuked those whose ecclesiology was borrowed from the Harvard School of Business or, worse, some Green-Left women's collective. Christ was and is a Priest, a Prophet and a King, not a business manager. Benedict believes that the Church is nothing less than the Universal Sacrament of Salvation and the Bride of Christ.
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In the prominent papabile department, Sr Anne Flanagan has posted a series of links to articles by Cardinal Marc Ouellet:
I met the gentle Father Marc Ouellet decades ago at a symposium on Hans Urs von Balthasar (another co-founder of Communio). I thanked him for his wonderful writings in that same journal. Now you can read them, too. If the former Archbishop of Quebec is elected in the next conclave, you'll be familiar with his thought.
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Meanwhile, Carolyn Moynihan at Mercatornet has managed to pick up on an unremarked aspect of the Pistorius-Steenkamp tragedy:
Women in cohabiting relationships are far more likely to be abused or killed than married women -- by a factor of 9, according to one study -- and yet cohabitation rates have increased sharply in South Africa as in other countries. There, as in the US, Europe or Australia, pre-marital sex, which often leads to cohabitation, is also taken for granted...
This is the fundamental mistake that the two South African stars made, and no-one wants to mention it. Sex implied things that neither of them could mean, even if, for fleeting moments, they imagined it did. One of them took the implications far too seriously and it all ended in tragedy, one young life lost and the other in ruins.
Why do we accept this trend? Why do we not warn young women and men of the downside -- and the downright dangers -- of giving themselves bodily and emotionally to someone they barely know? Why do we not give them the dismal statistics before they start experimenting, and the values and character training that will set them on the path of real friendships and marital commitment? Social silence on this matter means social guilt.
Could sexual restraint be too hard for a young man who learned to run like the wind on carbon fibre blades? Would it be beyond a young woman who managed a law degree, a modelling career and jumping off a cliff in Jamaica? Surely not. Continued failure to demand it of the young makes one an accessory after the fact.
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Closer to home, prominent former public servant John Menadue penned a letter to his fellow members of St Mary Magdalene’s Parish, Rose Bay:
Inspired by the Eucharist, I joined the Catholic Church over 30 years ago. That inspiration remains. Despite its failures the Church remains for me the greatest influence for good in the world. I am grateful for its worldwide works of justice, mercy and charity. At the local parish level I have found wise and generous leadership along with a pulsing, lively and loving community of believers. I hold in highest affection the women and particularly the Sisters in the Church who day after day “keep the show on the road”. I will never leave this Church. But I am greatly disturbed by the state of affairs into which we have allowed the Church to drift.
(Sexual) abuse is the ultimate in the violation of the human person, the human spirit and the soul. It is an appalling betrayal of trust by priests, religious and some lay people. Many parents were too ashamed to report rapists to the police.
Sexual abuse is an awful part, but it is only a part of a wider problem – the systemic abuse of clerical power.
Menadue also offers ten practical suggestions on what parish members could do in response.
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Meanwhile, Jeff LaSala of Geekosystem has the story of a Mexican priest who wears superheroes on his chasuble;
The church is Ojo de Agua in Saltillo, Mexico, and the man is Father Humberto Alvarez. Each week, before he begins conventional services, he dons a white chasuble with Supe, Spidey, and the Dark Knight emblazoned upon it. Why? Because these pop culture icons, like Jesus, are paragons — in some ways even pariahs — in the society in which they live and struggle.
According to LaSala:
More than children are attending Father Alvarez’s sensational services. Kids and adults both have flocked to Ojo de Agua, and it’s drawn its share of traditional-minded critics, as unconventional methods always do. Evidently, the Bishop of Saltillo himself disapproves.
Buzzfeed has more on the story.
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Finally, in the good to know department, muskrats, alligators, beavers and skunk-headed coots have all been ruled acceptable Lenten Friday fare, according to a list compiled by Matthew Schmitz at First Things.
Schmitz quotes the US Catholic Bishops website as saying that ”salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, (cold-blooded animals) and shellfish are permitted."
OK, but what about here in Australia? Does that mean we are free to eat platypus?
Stefan Gigacz is preparing a PhD. at MCD University of Divinity, Melbourne, on the role of Joseph Cardijn at Vatican II.
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