Sign of Contradiction: A Review


I thought I’d take a break after reading an academic treatise by Benedict XVI, so I foolishly picked this book up. It offers a very thorough examination of the history and the current status of the debates raging in our country over contraception. Like Benedict XVI’s book, I had a hard time reading this in large chunks. Like Benedict XVI’s book, I learned a lot.

This book is geared for devout Catholics who already support Church teaching in regards to family planning. It is, in a sense, a call to action for such Catholics to spur them to change the world with the gospel of life. It should be required reading for anyone in ministry, especially ministries that center on life issues and promoting Natural Family Planning.

I would broaden this invitation to include people who disagree with church teaching. This author tries terribly hard, almost too hard, to give a fair hearing to the other side of the debate. Read with an open mind, it may help people of the other side understand their own position and the position of others better.

I do think that this book could’ve been put together better. He seems to bounce around some and to rehash the same things over and over again. I wonder if this book would have been better if it were shorter or broken up into more than one volume. Covering the history of the modern debate over contraception and trying to give a good hearing to both sides is a very broad and involved subject for only one book.

The back of the book gives an excellent bibliography for deeper study, however. This whole book was like being back at my grad school with all the references he made to moral theologians that I know very well: Benedict Ashley OP, Jean deBlois CSJ, and Kevin O’Rourke, OP.

Overall, a good book. Definitely needs to be taken in smaller chunks.

Sign of Contradiction is available at your favorite bookseller now.


Theology of the Body Thursday #32: When Consent Is Not Enough


A recent issue of New York Magazine explored the sex lives of college students. One article that caught my eye was titled “Why Sex That’s Consensual Can Still Be Bad. And Why We’re Not Talking About It.”

There are protests on college campuses about rape. Politicians and people in school administration talk about rules and regulations in regards to rape. But what if what happens to you just doesn’t seem like rape? What if you don’t want to label your experience “rape”? What if it was just, as this author says, “shitty sex”?

She spends the article talking about power-imbalances and while all that is true, I’d like to point to an even more simple solution.


The sexual revolution inspired and encouraged women to emulate the worst in men. Think about it. Putting aside all that “men have needs” baloney, what do we really think of a man who has an extremely active sex life? Who gets a girl pregnant and then leaves her? Who doesn’t bother getting to know the person with whom he’s intimate? We think he’s a real POS, right? We might laugh, but in our heart of hearts, we know what he is doing is not right.

(If you don’t, you really should rethink your priorities. Physical pleasure never, ever, ever takes priority over the worth of other human beings.)

Years ago, we saw women not being allowed to live to their full potential in the workplace and we saw women not getting a voice in their own lives, so, as part of the solution, we stripped sex of all of its meaning. We took it out of marriage and we separated it from reproduction. Now, we don’t know what the rules are. We have an idea that maybe the rules should be whatever the individual wants, but desires are so fickle and feelings are fleeting. We really, really threw the baby out with the bathwater on this one.

So now my generation fumbles in the dark, unsure of what is right and what is wrong.

He just made a comment that made me feel uncomfortable, what should I do?

She just said “no,” but her body language is telling me something completely different, what should I do?

We’ve been dating for two months, shouldn’t we have had sex by now? What should I do?

Sex feels great in the moment, but once my partner leaves me, I feel like shit. Is there something wrong with me? What should I do?

What should I do?

What you should do is wait until that person is dedicated to you for life. Playing with sex is like playing with fire. It’s fun until someone gets burned. Even if you are somehow immune to the burn, you should withhold out of respect for others.

Really, it’s that freaking simple. Keep it in your pants, my friends.

I really have a feeling that once the dust settles and some future generation resets the rules of sex and marriage, the rules will look a lot like the old ones with, hopefully, some of the flaws ironed out.


Note: Sorry I disappeared for over a month. My other work has been driving me insane.

Mothers Don’t Need Planned Parenthood: An Open Letter to the President of NOW

Dear NOW President Terry O’Neill,

I heard your comments on MSNBC.

“Moms loved Planned Parenthood- independent moms, Republican moms, and Democratic moms because high schoolers and college students, their daughters get excellent service. They get honest services and they get services they trust. So- so, to the degree that Hillary Clinton is saying that somehow, Planned Parenthood has done anything wrong, I would take issue and disagree extremely strongly with her. Planned Parenthood has nothing to apologize for, nothing. I have only admiration for her…”

Speaking as a mom, I don’t know where to begin. I do agree with you that pictures of aborted babies are inappropriate. As a pro-lifer, I’m embarrassed by my co-activists that use such images. These children were horribly abused and disrespected in life, why are we further disrespecting them in death? Setting aside the fact that the images only serve to shock, they don’t add anything to the debate. So that is one thing we agree on.

What we don’t agree on is how “honest” and “excellent” the service is at Planned Parenthood. Over 300,000 abortions were performed at Planned Parenthood in 2011. Assuming that just over half of them were girls, you can say that at least 150,000 girls were slaughtered at Planned Parenthood. These were 150,000 potential friends for my child, 150,000 classmates, 150,000 teammates, roommates, housemates, later on co-workers, parishioners, in-laws…


These girls were robbed of their most fundamental right, the right to life, before they would ever have the opportunity to date, vote, get a college education, to run a business. Sure, they may have been born in poverty, but they could’ve worked their way out. They could have given us the opportunity to really help them.

This is completely ignoring, however, the mother. The mother who was lied to, told their child was nothing more than tissue. Everyone knows that is a lie, but when you’re desperate and alone, you will believe whatever will help you get through. Now, these videos are helping to further prove the lie.

So, Planned Parenthood can give my future daughter pills to prevent pregnancy? These pills and other devices can have horrible side effects. They can even kill her. Instead of controlling her body like a dictator, like her body was the enemy, wouldn’t it be better for her to learn about her body like she can through methods of Natural Family Planning. Sure, she will have to control her sexual urges when they are at their strongest, but this will help her ultimately be a better person. It has been shown time and again that self-control in one area in your life improves the rest of your life.

And don’t you dare give me that line about all the other basic services she can get at Planned Parenthood:


So, please act like what you claim to be, a group dedicated to the advancement of women, not a lobbying group for Planned Parenthood. Trust me, they have plenty of money and lobbyists. They don’t need you. Women need you.


Bethanie Ryan

A concerned mother and feminist activist

I Am An Angry Mom: A Response to “No More Angry Mothers”

A few days before Mother’s Day, an article was published on Huffington Post entitled, “No More Angry Mothers; Embracing Accessible Abortion and Affordable Contraception” Basically, she decries a whole generation of women who didn’t have access to contraception and abortion. She characterizes them as miserable and lacking freedom. She trumpets the grand (and failed) solutions of contraception and abortion. I have two questions for her:

  1. Is a little anger really a bad thing?
  2. Are these really the solution?

I am an angry mother. My son was unplanned. I had to completely rewrite my career plans when he came into our lives. I never in a million years thought I would ever be a stay-at-home mom.

But isn’t a little anger a good thing. As another pro-choice feminist once said:



Change hurts, especially when that change runs counter to our plans. But it is through the hurt that we grow. The change makes us better people. My little change brought me to my position at Feminists for Life. It has given me the opportunity to chase my childhood dream of writing. He has taught me patience, endurance, living for the moment and enjoying the little things. Anger allows us to grow and is usually a good indication of where we need to grow the most.

I’m sure the article comes from a place of pain from being called by her mother “her final mistake” and seeing the vocation of motherhood vilified in her childhood home. However, even now, 50% of the children who survive the womb were unplanned. I think that our silence about that is a sin. We’re all worried about our kids being labeled as unwanted and ourselves being labeled as irresponsible. Instead of being worried about our own self-image, we need to be worried about our children’s classmates who will never see the light of day. I would bet everything I own that for every woman entering an abortion clinic today, there is at least one mother in the world that was in her exact shoes and chose life. We need to shout our stories from the rooftops so these women know they are not alone.

My name is Bethanie Ryan and I had an unplanned pregnancy a month into my marriage while I was still in collegeMy son wasn’t planned by me, but, more importantly, he was planned by God (fate, destiny, whatever you want to call it). 


Abortion and contraception aren’t the solutions to lack of community support, poverty, abuse, and the disrepute of motherhood. A woman who has an abortion is still going back to her previous impoverished, abused, lonely existence. A woman who pops a pill doesn’t learn to understand and respect the cycles of her body.

We need to learn the art of being neighbors. This is all the more important in an economy that seems hell-bent on tearing families apart as people travel to find work.

We need real solutions to poverty. No woman should have to choose between a job or education and her child.

We need to be more aware of abuse in our communities and make substantial steps to protect abuse victims.

The vocation of motherhood has rightfully been taken down from it’s pedestal as the end-all and be-all of womankind. No woman should be held as less than for not having children. Motherhood, however, does deserve a better place. There are few fish to fry bigger than creating and nurturing the next generation. “Smart”? Many stay-at-home moms are college-educated like me.

The current solutions of contraception and abortion lead to nothing more than more pills and more abortions. We need to look for real solutions to the pains of unplanned pregnancy, not quick fixes that don’t actually fix anything. And those solutions are certainly the last thing anyone needs to be celebrating on Mother’s Day.

Theology of the Body Thursday #11: The Pill for Men?


Recently I was reading America and the Pill (stay tuned for a review). Chapter 5 of the book talks in great detail about the attempts to create a birth control pill for men. Just this week, we have seen studies show that the Pill for women may be connected to a rare form of brain cancer. This book brought up some interesting reasons why a birth control pill for men has never been created and sold.

It is not a matter of science. As they were developing the pill for women, the scientists gave the pill to men in an insane asylum just for the heck of it. Before you judge, rules and regulations surrounding testing on humans were much looser in those days, everyone was doing stuff like that and no one thought it was wrong. Anyway, the tests helped scientists develop many ideas on how to make a pill for men with mixed success. Shortly after the pill was released for women, scientists predicted that a pill would be out for men within a few years. Well, it’s been 58 years and we’re still waiting.

giphy (1)


In past generations, pharmaceutical companies were worried that men wouldn’t take it. No point in committing man-power and money to a pill that won’t sell. Why wouldn’t they take it? Because they linked their fertility to their masculinity. Being sterile would make the man feel like less of a man.

This argument killed the pill for men, but it didn’t kill the pill for women and our fertility is an even bigger deal. Our entire bodies are in it. Our moods and physiology are completely wrapped up in our cycles. When new life is created, our bodies change to make room and to be prepared for motherhood once the child is born. How is it that men associated their masculinity with their fertility, but women had a much easier time throwing their fertility away?

This is not as much an issue in today’s generation. Today’s men do not associate their masculinity with their fertility. Some men in the survey conducted by the author in America and the Pill even welcomed such a change. (However, a recent article in The Guardian argues differently.)


So, where is it? Male scientists didn’t and still don’t want to expose men to the risks. They don’t want to expose men to the side effects. All of the formulas that were tested in the beginning on men had the same side effects as the women’s pill. But when the women test subjects complained about side effects, they were written off and ignored. Scientists thought they were exaggerating or that the effects were psychosomatic. Silly women! When the male subjects complained, the offending formula was thrown out. God forbid we mess with a man’s sex drive!

Notice: Sex-related pills for men work to make them more virile while pills for women suppress our fertility and our sex drive.

I have to ask along with Matt Walsh, where is the feminist rage? It’s no surprise that women were written off in the 50s as being silly, but why are women being written off now when the pill that many use can give them brain cancer!

And why are we willing to give up our fertility so easily? Because we can die bringing life into the world? Because women are still given the bulk of the responsibility in child-rearing? Because, as the aforementioned Matt Walsh pointed out, we’ve been sold on the lie that our worth is based on our job? We have gone from one extreme of expecting all women to be mothers to the other expecting all women to be sterile.

Let’s find a balance. Let’s respect the woman who has 4 kids before she’s 30. Let’s respect the woman who runs a Fortune 500 company. Let’s respect the woman who, for no fault of her own, cannot have children.





Theology of the Body Thursday #10: Take Me To Church

This post is mainly in response to the video. I know the song is from 2013, but it has been getting a lot of air-time on my favorite local pop station lately. In case you couldn’t make it through the video, here’s a summary: There is a gay couple. They hear a lynch mob coming and run for their lives. One of the men doesn’t make it.

I have two confessions to make:

1) I didn’t make it through the video. There is so much suffering and evil in the world, all you need to do is watch the news. I couldn’t watch this mob attack this man.

2) I struggle with the Church’s teachings about homosexuality. For me, the key words there are “struggle with.” I don’t reject them outright. The Church is my Mother and I want to listen to all she has to tell me. For me, the only way I can make sense of it is by putting it in the overall picture of the Church’s teachings on sexuality. Because of my struggle, I think I can explain the Church’s teachings in this area better than many hard-core believers. Let me illustrate:


Bethanie vs. The Troll


Let me try to explain now it in 500 words or less:

As I say in the cartoon above, God made us male and female. Now, this wasn’t a coincidence, this wasn’t an accident. Our bodies aren’t a tomb or a tool. We are our bodies and our bodies are us. Our souls and our bodies are intrinsic to who we are. The resurrection of the body isn’t some sort of metaphorical hogwash, it’s true and literal. We’re all going to be kind of like some sort of holy, glorified, incorrupt zombies someday.


Except any illness, injury, or disability she had will be healed. Her body will never die and she won’t be looking for brains. You know what? I’m just going to refer you to the Catechism: 988-1001


Our bodies reflect something intrinsic about the individual. For example, women’s bodies are made to create and nurture life. So women are naturally drawn to nuture. We are more naturally open-minded, able to embrace everyone. We are drawn to be protective and to provide for the least of those among us. Men, pardon my graphicness, are more direct. They are built to penetrate, so they are naturally less open to those who are different and more able to hone in on things. They also protect and provide for those they care about. While we are more able to receive, they are more able to give.

As our bodies are so intrinsic to our identities, in the Catholic worldview, God cannot be compartmentalized. Everything we do, what we eat, what we wear, where we live, what entertainment we consume, when, how and with whom we make love, all  of these and more have eternal consequences. Hence the so-called “culture wars” right now. Artificial contraception is just as “intrinsically disordered” as homosexual behavior from a Catholic perspective. We cannot condone behavior that we believe will lead other people to hell.

The chruch is not full of hypocrites


We observe in nature that the sex act has two effects. One is the bonding of the couple. The other is to have children. Anything that interferes with either of those things is “intrinsically disordered” as to the nature of sex. That’s all there is to it. Gay people aren’t sick. Gay people aren’t any more sinners than the rest of us.  Homosexual behavior isn’t any worse than artificial contraception, premarital sex and porn.

The Church’s teachings on homosexuality cannot be seen outside of its overall teachings on sex and the body. (Arguably, the Church’s teachings on sexuality cannot be seen outside of the whole Gospel, but that is beyond the scope of this post.) If you take it out of context, like anything you take out of context, it gets greatly distorted. And people get hurt and others, like the idiot in the cartoon, die in ignorance. The body is good and sex is very good. The Church just does not want to see sex used as a tool for pleasure when it can be so much more.

Less than 500 words? Nailed it!


Theology of the Body Thursday #9: You don’t need a degree to figure this one out.

Sarcasm Alert.


A conversation overheard at the laundromat:

“He rides her and then spends $50 on this pill then she takes it,” a talkative patron says incredulously.

“Really?” the friendly worker responds.

“Yeah, and she’s all like ‘I love him’ and ‘we’re going to get married’ and I’m like, ‘are you stupid?'” the patron explains.

“No kidding,” the worker agrees.

Yeah, he totally loves her and I can think of two ways you know for sure.

  1. The most obvious: he doesn’t want her to have his baby. He’s willing to go to extremes to make sure she doesn’t have his baby. A baby would be a permanent link between the couple, and why would he want that? As some people say, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?
  2. He’s willing to flood her body with powerful hormones on a regular basis so he can get his kicks. I’m not going to deny that women can get pleasure from sex as well, but in this relationship, she’s taking all the risk and he’s taking a substantial chunk of the reward. She’s suffering the side effects of the Plan B pill. She’ll have issues in the future for taking the Plan B pill as a primary form of birth control when even it’s makers didn’t intend it thus.

Yup, this sounds like true love to me and this guy is a real keeper. And even a couple of non-Catholic, non-theologians gossiping at a laundromat can see that.

Seriously, though, if you are in a relationship like this, get out! You deserve better than this.