Next up for beatification: Paul VI, the “Hamlet Pope”

Pope Paul VI (Photo: PA). Accessed at, May 18, 2014.

Pope Paul VI (Photo: PA). Accessed at, May 18, 2014.

In my heart, I maintain a very special category of person. I call these people “Popes I Would Like to Have a Beer With.” I’ve already written about one of them, Pius XI.

But while I am charmed by the blustery, scholarly Pius, I feel a deeper kinship–indeed a brotherhood–with Paul VI, one of the two Vatican II popes. His life and mine have followed parallel tracks.

We were both extremely shy kids who talked like we had swallowed the dictionary. We both came to prefer cats to dogs, to loathe the telephone, and to have the same bad knee (the right one). We would both feel caught in some way between “new church” and “old church.”

In our youth, we both edited student publications. (Mine was called The Megaphone. His was called The Slingshot.) We both puzzled over whether to pursue a journalistic vocation or some sort of religious one. We both struggled with major decisions, period. How do you explain to people not just all the things that can go wrong, but your ability to see all of them at once? I know what it’s like. So did he.

Suffice it to say he is somebody I think about a lot. And now I will think about him even more. Pope Francis recently announced his intent to beatify Paul VI–make him a “blessed,” one step below saint–on October 19, 2014, exactly one week before my thirty-first birthday.  Continue reading

Birth Control: Where Everyone Has an Agenda

I’ve been wanting to write about birth control for months, and the fact that the Supreme Court is debating whether secular employers have a “right” to deny certain kinds of contraception in their health care plans seems as good a reason as any to finally do it.

I have beside me a pamphlet my mom, a public health nurse, gave me in disgust — she works on a daily basis with crisis pregnancies and parents whose kids pay the price for their own unpreparedness to be parents. My mom has always felt that birth control is a Very Good Thing, and she made sure I always knew that the Church had no right to make this decision for her, for me, or for any other woman.

The pamphlet is: “Contraception: Abortion in Disguise“. It attacks hormonal contraception and IUDs for their potential abortive effects — that is, the fact that they can effect change in the uterine lining that makes it difficult for a fertilized egg to implant, in contrast to success rates for the same issue. It also includes long sections on the risks various contraceptives can pose to a woman’s health, including everything from headaches to breast cancer. But never fear, there is hope! The pamphlet ends with a quote from Dr. Rudolph Ehmann, who says, “The only course which will do justice to the complete human being in a dignified manner is, in my experience, Natural Family Planning.”


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NFP and the Elephant (or the babies) in the Room

Disclaimer: Since people are bound to make assumptions about my sex life based on anything I write below, I find it necessary to state upfront that I am in no way opposed to Natural Family Planning — my husband and I incorporate it into our own marriage. What I AM opposed to is other people thinking they have the right to make sexual choices for all people, and for all couples, especially when the reality of this particular choice is very often glossed over or misrepresented.

When I was in college, I told my mom that when I got married, I wanted to practice Natural Family Planning. My mom said, “Good luck with that — that’s how we got Jessica.” Although my parents deeply love and would never express regret over any of their children (some of whom were more “planned” than others), my mom’s message to me was clear: If you plan to practice NFP, plan to have a baby.

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