By Teresa Mottet
I read page 9 of the March 1 Messenger with a lot of mixed feelings. First was Father Bill Kneemiller’s article concerning Humanae Vitae. Fr. Kneemiller wrote: “One of the most stunning statements in this encyclical is that a man using contraceptive methods ‘may forget the reverence due to a woman… and reduce her to being a mere instrument… and no longer surround her with care and affection.”
It struck me as a stunning statement alright, but not like he thought. The statement was obviously written by someone with no first-hand knowledge of the dynamics of a loving marriage.
My late husband and I were married for 61 years and during the 30 years until I reached menopause we never bought or used any artificial birth control. We went with the rhythm method to regulate family size.
But what the rhythm method fails to take into account (and also natural family planning, which is refined rhythm) is that the woman experiences her greatest libido at the time in her menstrual cycle when she will get pregnant. Her urge is lessened at other times in her cycle. A man is not influenced by cyclic variations as a woman is.
Therefore, when a man truly loves his wife, he wants to give her pleasure at the time of her greatest desire. His love is enhanced by her joy. Contrary to Humanae Vitae, he is not forgetting to reverence her, or reducing her to being a mere instrument. He is wanting to surround her with care and affection.
In light of this, does this mean that a woman is to experience deep and profound lovemaking only three, four, five or six times in her married life, depending on what family size the couple can afford? That is absurd, to say the least. Sexual love is meant for the bonding of the couple, as well as for the procreation of children.
Practicing rhythm put a strain on our marriage because we could not show small signs of affection to each other at “those times” because it might lead to something that could not be stopped.
I think some of the arguments and disagreements in life were caused by sexual tension, not by money matters or childrearing problems per se. In observing others, young people nowadays don’t seem to have that problem.
In all the discussion over birth control, I’d like to hear more dialogue on this aspect of the issue. George Bernard Shaw wrote: “Marriage combines the maximum of temptation with the maximum of opportunity.” He obviously wasn’t talking about rhythm or NFP.
(Teresa Mottet is a member of St. Mary Parish in Fairfield.)