We have three children, born over a space of seven years. We had to have a caesarean for each, because they were all so big. I remember the tremendous rush of feeling when James was born-- it is impossible to express the elation. Then a bit less than two years later, we had a miscarriage. It was very early in the pregnancy; another woman, decades ago, might have chalked it up to a late period, but these days we find these things early, and find the problems early too. I grasped at straws; my wife was devastated. Fortunately, the next year Catherine was born.
And then came Thomas. There's a test they do now, the AFP test, to detect spina bifida. It also can detect Downs, but inaccurately. For us, the results did suggest Downs. So naturally amniocentesis was suggested. We turned it down; we know a woman who lost a baby that way. A woman at the office helped me through the rest of the pregnancy, for she had a false positive on one of her children (all of whom were normal). And when Thomas was born, he appeared at first healthy and normal.
Nonetheless, he failed to gain weight at first. So my wife practically forcefed him at the breast, and he begin to gain weight. But he continued to lag, and when he was a year and a half old, or doctor sent us to the geneticists at the University of Maryland hospital in Baltimore. We had a diagnosis as soon Dr. Wulfsberg there had finished examining him; a chromosome count merely confirmed his conclusion.
Dustin, you say "Contraception is accepted, abortion is condemned but then there are always more and more 'reasons' why it 'might' be 'tolerated' being thrown around, people think it's ok just to have one or two kids (assuming they are financially able to have more), new birth technologies are just accepted unequivocably, etc." Well, you know, everyone is able financially to have more. You're able to right now; you just have to put that fertility ahead of your ambitions or your lifestyle or whatever justifies limiting childbearing. Now, my wife and I have two big issues: (a) we're neither of us young, and it's questionable whether I should be sending children to college when I'm closing in on retirement and my wife is pushing seventy; and (b) it's now likely that we would have another child with Downs. How much weight does the potential unborn child have?
I don't know that we have to have another go-'round with NFP; I hold it condemned under the same judgement as other contraception, and anyway, at my wife's age, it stops working. Maybe you're willing to have a sexless marriage for half a decade, but I am not.
On one level, there is no justification for contraception possible. Every married couple who can should be connubialling away in the interest of fruitful multiplication, whether the children produced are healthy or not. Financial considerations are utterly beside the point-- that is a modernist, American, upper middle way of looking at the problem. After all, look at nature: the fertility of beast and plant is profligate. The difference, though, is that (as it says in Genesis) we along are given power to regulate nature-- and our own nature, at that. So is it better that, having brought disease under sufficient control, sane people understand that humanity simply must check its fertility. And radical calls for celebacy are not, I think likely to succeed. Hence, contraception becomes the unavoidable means.
As I grow older, I'm increasingly concluding that the Church is far too ready to supply answers to every moral question. There has to come a point where the abundant supply of such teaching indicates a severe reduction in its value. THere needs to be a lot less confidence in one's teaching, and a lot more fear and trembling.