"71HAVE only this to say [of the Rhythm 1method of spacing childrenl—and everybody who has spoken has said why he has adopted or mentioned some great aspect of this matter — having a great knowledge of the consulting room and of the confidences which are imparted to a woman doctor. Can it be argued that this is a humane method, since it advises abstinence at the very time when a woman is least disposed to be abstinent?".
So said Lady Summerskill in last week's House of Lords debate on " Regulation of Birth and World Peace".
"Is it in the interests of marital harmony to starve her when she is hungry; to feed her when the appetite is diminished? The Rhythm method of birth control, besides being far from certain, thwarts women in their natural desires; indeed the very laws of nature are violated." Lady Sumerskill continued.
It is a little curious that women. desirous of adopting this Catholic method of spacing children or interested in it, should have chosen Dr. Summerskill as their consultant.
In comment we have asked a fairly recently married Catholic mother, of high education and experience, for her frank views on the safe period.
She writes. "Those who use the safe period do so for the most profound religious reason, and some account must be taken of this. These people are governed. not by natural laws (in the sense of biological laws) alone, but by the laws of religion and of their own psychology reacting to them.
"At the biological level they may feel the most overpowering urge to have intercourse. But at the economic level they will know that it would be foolish to have another child just yet. At the moral level they know that abstinence is the only alternative. At the psychological level their real contentment comes from their living their life according to the truths which they have accepted with the whole of themselves. At the theological level God gives them the grace and the love to do His will.
"It is not easy to explain all this to non-Catholics, Yet it must be done. For Catholics, the sex or pro-creative act is the most sacred act in the natural order— the act used by God to make for Himself new sons, destined to live with Him for ever. What God has made for Himself in this way, man cannot alter in any way (by per versions. for instance. or by artificial birth-control). If man performs the act, it must be as God intended its performance. But man may choose when to perform it. The safe period is concerned with the 'when' of its performance. within marriage, the natural fruit of which is a family.
"If we believe this. or explain this, half-heartedly, people will merely think we are under-sexed. But if we are passionate in our convictions, they may feel that there could be something, after all, in beliefs resulting in such—as it may seem to them—heroic action. They do not yet know about grace or even about Catholic psychology."
Catholic and other speakers in the debate made it clear that whatever might be said about family limitation and ' its methods, the problem of growth and decrease of population generally is far too complex to be dealt with in terms of birth control and its different techniques as seen from the Western world's angle.