Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

The Pill, The Pope and The People: Humanae Vitae at 35
American Life League ^ | Judie Brown

Posted on 09/03/2003 1:24:08 PM PDT by Polycarp

The Pill, The Pope and The People: Humanae Vitae at 35

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Exclusive commentary by Judie Brown President and Founder, American Life League

Jul 25, 2003

The term “slippery slope” is used far too frequently, I believe. Unfortunately, it is an all too accurate description of what’s happened to the traditional family over the last three quarters of a century. It's a point worth pondering as the Catholic Church marks the 35th anniversary of Pope Paul VI's landmark encyclical Humanae Vitae. In reflecting on the years that have passed, and in re-reading Paul VI's words today, one simple truth emerges: the pope was right.

The slope first began to veer from a level path in 1930. It was then that the Church of England, during its Lambeth Conference, approved a resolution stating that married couples, employing “morally sound reasoning for avoiding abstinence,” were permitted to use “other methods” besides abstinence to limit or avoid parenthood. This decision shunned the collective teachings of 19 centuries and opened the door for Christianity’s approval of the practice of contraception.

Immediately following the Lambeth announcement of this profound break with Christian principles, Pope Pius XI issued the encyclical On Christian Marriage, proclaiming “any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.”

At the time, some of the most influential secular voices agreed not with the Anglicans but with the Catholics. On, March 22, 1931, the Washington Post editorialized, “It is impossible to reconcile the doctrine of the divine institution of marriage with any modernistic plan for the mechanical regulation of human birth. The church must either reject the plain teaching of the Bible or reject schemes for the 'scientific production' of human souls. Carried to its logical conclusion, the [Lambeth] committee's report if carried into effect would sound the death-knell of marriage as a holy institution, by establishing degrading practices which would encourage indiscriminate immorality. The suggestion that the use of legalized contraceptives would be 'careful and restrained' is preposterous.”

The dam had been cracked. Over the next 35 years a growing sense of frustration inspired organizations, including Planned Parenthood and its allies, to struggle with how, when and where to find that magic bullet that would “relieve” couples of their anxiety so that they could enjoy sexual pleasure without accepting the children that might result. As the pot continued to boil, scientists, funded by large corporations, worked feverishly to develop a pill that would provide the “release” couples were allegedly seeking as they wrestled with the reality that sexual relations could lead to children.

In the mid 1960s, when doctors, social workers and others announced that the pill would make its debut, the Catholic Church was compelled to again address the question. Pope Paul VI faced the question head on in Humanae Vitae. He warned of the sociological impact of birth control on the populace and he invited all men of good will to avoid acts that are “contrary to the nature of both man and woman and of their most intimate relationship.”

The practice of contraception is such an act. As Prof. Donald DeMarco succinctly put it in the July 1983 issue of Homiletic and Pastoral Review, “Contraception is the prevention by mechanical or chemical means of the possible natural and procreative consequence of sexual intercourse, namely, conception. The purpose of contraception is to separate intercourse from procreation so that the contracepting partners can enjoy the pleasures of sex without the discomforting fear that their sexual activity could lead to the procreation of another human being.”

At the occasion of Humanae Vitae’s 35th anniversary, it’s fitting to measure the current state of our culture in light of the pope’s prophetic statements of 1968.

In his encyclical, Pope Paul VI set forth three major concerns.

(1) He asked responsible men to consider how the practice of birth control would open a wide road leading to “conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality.”

(2) He expressed a fear that the male, “growing used to the employment of anti-conceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.”

(3) He asked that man consider that “a dangerous weapon would thus be placed in the hands of those public authorities who take no heed of moral exigencies.”

On the other side of the coin, birth control proponents told the public that birth control would relieve anxiety, put couples in charge of their sex lives and become the panacea for all society’s woes.

Thirty-five years later, proponents argue that with better birth control there would be less abortion. All the while these individuals fail to point out that the most popular forms of birth control can abort human beings during their first few days of life.

Birth control proponents also play fast and loose with the truth by claiming the pill and other methods using artificial steroids are safe for women. Such chemicals, however, contribute to escalating rates of breast cancer and heart disease, among other effects.

In the early days of the contraceptive movement, there were concerns that the so-called promises of the pill were based on faulty reasoning. In 1972, University of California sociology professor Kingsley Davis said, “The current belief that illegitimacy will be reduced if teenage girls are given effective contraception is an extension of the same reasoning that created the problem in the first place. It reflects an unwillingness to face problems of social control and social discipline, while trusting some technological device to extricate society from its difficulties. The irony is that the illegitimacy rise occurred precisely while contraception was becoming more, rather than less, widespread and respectable.”

Has the pill liberated Americans or enslaved them? Consider these varied statistics on matters of sexual and family health in the United States. These findings are all reported in The Family Portrait, a book published in 2002 by the Family Research Council.

*The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that the United States has the highest rates of sexually transmitted disease in the world.

*Two-thirds of all abortions are performed on never-married women.

*From 1930 to 1934, one in six first births to women age 15-29 was either conceived or born before marriage. From 1990-1994 this figure increased to one in two births.

*The annual divorce rate has doubled since 1960.

*Between 1970 and 1996 the percentage of children living with a single parent increased from 11.9 percent to 25.4 percent.

Other organizations have reported similar findings of cultural concern:

*The United States has the highest adolescent pregnancy, abortion, and birth rates in the developed world, according to the Child Welfare League.

*Since 1960 births to unmarried women have increased more than 400%, according to figures compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics, the Alan Guttmacher Institute, and the Centers for Disease Control. Nearly half of all adolescent pregnancies end in abortion.

*15.3 million STDs are contracted each year in the United States, according to a Project Reality fact sheet. That is 42,000 new cases daily.

*In 1960 Syphilis and Gonorrhea were the only two known sexually transmitted diseases and each was treatable with antibiotics. Today there are over 20 diseases with 12 million newly infected persons each year. It is estimated that 1 in 5 Americans is now infected with a viral STD. (2) This does not include the bacterial diseases such as chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea, which are at very high levels. Tragically, according to the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, 63% of these infections occur in persons under age 25.

*One out of every ten adolescents will attempt suicide before the age of 19, according to figures provided by Life Crisis Services of St. Louis.

So where is the good news in all this? What does the birth control movement have to show for its promises of happier days, complete with fewer worries and fewer children, and freedom of choice? Could it possibly be that Pope Paul VI was right in each of his predictions? Are the purveyors of promiscuity and infidelity witnessing a nation that is reaping the devastating consequences of sexual liberation? Do they care?

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, quoted in the December 1998 issue of First Things, has suggested that our culture is in serious distress. “American society is wracked with sexual identity and behavior dysfunctions, family collapse, and a general coarsening of attitudes toward the sanctity of human life. It’s obvious to almost everyone: We have a problem, and it’s killing us as a people. So what are we going to do about it? What I want to suggest is that if Paul VI was right about so many of the consequences deriving from contraception, it is because hw as right about contraception itself. In seeking to become whole again as persons and as people of faith, we would do well to revisit Humanae Vitae with open hearts. Jesus said the truth would make us free. Humanae Vitae is filled with truth about our sexuality, our purpose as human beings, and the nature of married love. Lived selflessly, it is a source of real joy. We impoverish ourselves and those we love by ignoring it.”

TOPICS: Activism; Apologetics; Catholic; Moral Issues; Religion & Culture
KEYWORDS: catholiclist
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-2021-4041-6061-70 next last

1 posted on 09/03/2003 1:24:08 PM PDT by Polycarp
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: .45MAN; AAABEST; AKA Elena; al_c; american colleen; Angelus Errare; Antoninus; aposiopetic; ...
Ping. (As usual, if you would like to be added to or removed from this "conservative Catholics" ping list, just send me a FReepmail. Please realize that some of my "ping" posts are long.)
2 posted on 09/03/2003 1:25:50 PM PDT by Polycarp (When a mother can kill her own child, what is left of the West to save?" - Mother Theresa)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]


by Professor Janet E. Smith, PhD

Janet E. Smith is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Dallas, Texas. She has edited Why Humane Vitae Was Right: A Reader and authored Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later, and numerous articles on abortion, contraception, virtue, and Plato. This article was edited and reprinted with permission.

Many in the pro-life movement are reluctant to make a connection between contraception and abortion. They insist that these are two very different acts - that there is all the difference in the world between contraception, which prevents a life from coming to be, and abortion, which takes a life that has already begun.

With some contraceptives, there is not only a link with abortion, there is an identity. Some contraceptives are abortifacients; they work by causing early term abortions. The IUD seems to prevent a fertilized egg - a new little human being - from implanting in the uterine wall. The pill does not always stop ovulation, but sometimes prevents implantation of the growing embryo. And of course, the new RU 486 pill works altogether by aborting a new fetus, a new baby. Although some in the pro-life movement occasionally speak out against the contraceptives that are abortifacients, most generally steer clear of the issue of contraception.

Contraception creates alleged “need” for abortion

This seems to me to be a mistake. I think that we will not make good progress in creating a society where all new life can be safe, where we truly display a respect for life, where abortion is a terrible memory rather than a terrible reality, until we see that there are many significant links between contraception and abortion, and that we bravely speak this truth. We need to realize that a society in which contraceptives are widely used is going to have a very difficult time keeping free of abortions since the lifestyles and attitudes that contraception fosters, create an alleged “need” for abortion.

Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the US Supreme Court decision that confirmed Roe v. Wade [U.S. decision to permit abortions] stated “in some critical respects, abortion is of the same character as the decision to use contraception… for two decades of economic and social developments, people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail”.

The Supreme Court decision has made completely unnecessary, any efforts to “expose” what is really behind the attachment of the modern age to abortion. As the Supreme Court candidly states, we need abortion so that we can continue our contraceptive lifestyles. It is not because contraceptives are ineffective that a million and a half women a year seek abortions as back-ups to failed contraceptives. The “intimate relationships” facilitated by contraceptives are what make abortions “necessary”. “Intimate” here is a euphemism and a misleading one at that. Here the word “intimate” means “sexual”; it does not mean “loving and close”. Abortion is most often the result of sexual relationships in which there is no room for a baby, the natural consequence of sexual intercourse.

To support the argument that more responsible use of contraceptives would reduce the number of abortions, some note that most abortions are performed for “contraceptive purposes”. That is, few abortions are had because a woman has been a victim of rape or incest or because a pregnancy would endanger her life, or because she expects to have a handicapped or deformed newborn. Rather, most abortions are had because men and women who do not want a baby are having sexual intercourse and facing pregnancies they did not plan for and do not want. Because their contraceptive failed, or because they failed to use a contraceptive, they then resort to abortion as a back up. Many believe that if we could convince men and women to use contraceptives responsibly, we would reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, and thus the number of abortions. Thirty years ago this position might have had some plausibility, but not now. We have lived for about thirty years with a culture permeated with contraceptive use and abortion; no longer can we think that greater access to contraception will reduce the number of abortions. Rather, wherever contraception is more readily available, the number of unwanted pregnancies and the number of abortions increase greatly.

Sexual revolution not possible without contraception

The connection between contraception and abortion is primarily this: contraception facilitates the kind of relationships and even the kind of attitudes and moral characters that are likely to lead to abortion. The contraceptive mentality treats sexual relationship as a burden. The sexual revolution has no fondness - no room for - the connection between sexual intercourse and babies. The sexual revolution simply was not possibly until fairly reliable contraceptives were available.

Far from being a check to the sexual revolution, contraception is the fuel that facilitated the beginning of the sexual revolution and enables it to continue to rage. In the past, many men and women refrained from illicit sexual unions simply because they were not prepared for the responsibilities of parenthood. But once a fairly reliable contraceptive appeared on the scene, this barrier to sex outside the confines of marriage fell. The connection between sex and love also fell quickly; ever since contraception became widely used, there has been much talk of, acceptance of, and practice of casual sex and recreational sex. The deep meaning that is inherent in sexual intercourse has been lost sight of; the willingness to engage in sexual intercourse with another is no longer a result of a deep commitment to another. It no longer bespeaks a willingness to have a child with another and to have all the consequent entanglements with another that babies bring. Contraception helps reduce one’s sexual partner to just a sexual object since it renders sexual intercourse to be without any real commitments.

“Carelessness” is international

Much of this data suggests that there is something deep in our natures that finds the severing of sexual intercourse from love and commitment and babies to be unsatisfactory. As we have seen, women are careless in their use of contraceptives for a variety of reasons, but one reason for their careless use of contraceptives is precisely their desire to engage in meaningful sexual activity rather than in meaningless sexual activity. They want their sexual acts to be more meaningful than a handshake or a meal shared. They are profoundly uncomfortable with using contraceptives for what they do to their bodies and for what they do to their relationships. Often, they desire to have a more committed relationship with the male with whom they are involved; they get pregnant to test this love and commitment. But since the relationship has not been made permanent, since no vows have been taken, they are profoundly ambivalent about any pregnancy that might occur.

Sexual Promiscuity Increases

By the late sixties and early seventies, the view of the human person as an animal, whose passions should govern, became firmly entrenched in the attitudes of those who were promoting the sexual revolution. One of the greatest agents and promoters of the sexual revolution has been Planned Parenthood. In the sixties and seventies, many of the spokesmen and women for Planned Parenthood unashamedly advocated sex outside of marriage and even promoted promiscuity. Young people were told to abandon the repressive morals of their parents and to engage in free love. They were told that active sexual lives with a number of partners would be psychologically healthy, perfectly normal, and perfectly moral. Now, largely because of the spread of AIDS and the devastation of teenage pregnancy, even Planned Parenthood puts a value on abstinence. Yet they have no confidence that young people can and will abstain from sexual intercourse, so they advocate “safe” sex, “responsible” sex, whereby they mean sexual intercourse wherein a contraceptive is used. Sex educators assume that young people will be engaging in sexual activity outside of marriage.

Young people do not need sex education of the Planned Parenthood type; they need to learn that sexual intercourse can be engaged in responsibly and safely only within marriage. Rather than filling young people’s heads with false notions about freedom, and filling their wallets with condoms, we need to help them see the true meaning of human sexuality. We need to help them learn self-control and self-mastery so that they are not enslaved to their sexual passions. They need to learn that sexual intercourse belongs within marriage, and that with the commitment to marriage comes true freedom; the freedom to give of one’s self completely to another, the freedom to meet one’s responsibilities to one’s children.

There are two cornerstones on which education for sexual responsibility should be built - cornerstones that are both corroded by contraceptive sex. One cornerstone is that sexual intercourse is meant to be the expression of a deep love for another individual, a deep love that leads one to want to give of oneself totally to another. Most individuals hope one day to be in a faithful marriage, to be in a marital relationship with someone one loves deeply and by whom one is loved deeply. One of the major components of that deep love is a promise of faithfulness, that one will give oneself sexually only to one’s spouse.

Contraception severs connection between sex and babies

The other cornerstone for a sex education program should be the refrain that ‘if you are not ready for babies, you are not ready for sexual intercourse, and you are not ready for babies until you are married’. Most people want to be good parents; they want to provide for their children and give them good upbringings. Contraception attempts to sever the connection between sexual intercourse and babies; it makes us feel responsible about our sexuality while enabling us to be irresponsible. Individuals born out of wedlock have a much harder start in life; have a much harder time gaining the discipline and strength they need to be responsible adults. Single mothers have very hard lives as they struggle to meet the needs of their children and their own emotional needs as well. Those who abort their babies are often left with devastating psychological scars. The price of out of wedlock pregnancy is high.

Indeed, even within marriage, contraception is destructive; it reduces the meaning of the sexual act; again it takes out the great commitment that is written into the sexual act, the commitment that is inherent in the openness to have children with one’s beloved.

Those who are unmarried do face a disaster, and abortion seems like a necessity since no permanent commitment has been made between the sexual partners. Those who are married have often planned a life that is not receptive to children and are tempted to abort to sustain the child-free life they have designed. I am not, of course, saying that all those who contracept are likely to abort; I am saying that many more of those who contracept do abort than those who practice natural family planning.

Contraception takes the baby-making element out of sexual intercourse. It makes pregnancy seem like an accident of sexual intercourse rather than the natural consequence that responsible individuals ought to be prepared for. Abortion, then, becomes thinkable as the solution to an unwanted pregnancy. Contraception enables those who are not prepared to care for babies to engage in sexual intercourse; when they become pregnant, they resent the unborn child for intruding itself upon their lives, and they turn to the solution of abortion. It should be no surprise that countries that are permeated by contraceptive sex, fight harder for access to abortion than they do to ensure that all babies can survive both in the womb and out. It is foolish for pro-lifers to think that they can avoid the issues of contraception and sexual irresponsibility and be successful in the fight against abortion. For, as the Supreme Court of the US has stated, abortion is “necessary” for those whose intimate relationships are based upon contraceptive sex.


For verification of the claims here made about Planned Parenthood, see George Grant, Grand Illusions: the Legacy of Planned Parenthood (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth and Hyatt Publishers, Inc., 1988), and Robert Marshall and Charles Donovan, Blessed are the Barren (San Francisco, CA; Ignatius Press, 1991).

Portions of this article are printed as portions of chapters in “Abortion and Moral Character”, in Catholicism and Abortion, ed. By Stephen J. Heaney to be published by the Pope John XXIII Medical-Moral Research Centre and “Abortion and Moral Character”, in Doing and Being: Introductory Reading in Moral Philosophy, ed by Jordan Graf Haber, to be published by Macmillan.

Permission given for reprinting portions from ‘The Connection between contraception and Abortion’, by Dr. Janet E. smith, published by Homiletic & Pastoral Review, April 1993, distributed by One More Soul.

"The Connection between Contraception and Abortion" by Janet E. Smith is available from One More Soul.

Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later
Janet E. Smith
Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Dallas

The amount of hostility directed at Humanae Vitae has been so great that most people are astonished when they first learn that contraception has not been a hotly debated issue since the very beginnings of the Church. All Christian churches were united in their opposition to contraception until as recently as the early decades of this century. It was not until 1930 that the Anglican Church went on record as saying that contraception was permissible, for grave reasons, within marriage. It was also at this time, however, that Pope Pius XI issued the encyclical Casti Connubii, generally translated on "On Christian Marriage," in which the Holy Father reiterated what has been the constant teaching of the Catholic Church: contraception is intrinsically wrong.

One might assume that there has been a continuing dispute since the 1930s, but there has not been. Surveys of this period indicate that as many as 65% of Catholics in the US were living in accord with the Church's teaching, as late as the early sixties. A book entitled Contraception, written by John Noonan, provides a comprehensive history of the Church's teaching against contraception. It clearly documents that the Church has been "clear and constant" in its position on contraception, throughout the whole history of the Church.

The first clamoring for change appeared in the late 1950s and early 1960s with the widespread availability of the birth control pill. Some Catholic theologians began to think that the pill might be a legitimate form of birth control for Catholics because, unlike other kinds of birth control, it did not break the integrity of the sexual act. This was the very first attempt within the Church to argue that contraception might be morally permissible. Meanwhile, in the political and social realms, there were perceptions of a population problem and growing sentiments that it would be inhumane for the Church to continue with a "policy" that promoted large families. Feminism had also begun to make itself felt with its demand that women be given full and equal access to employment and the political process. Feminists argued that having children had been a hindrance to such opportunities in the past, and that contraception -- not having children -- would enhance access to careers and thus be a great boon for women. These were the developing pressures on the Church to reconsider its teaching regarding contraception.

Pope John XXIII set up a commission of six theologians to advise him on these issues. Pope Paul VI took over the commission when John XXIII died and began adding new members with expertise from different fields, including married couples. The majority of the commission voted that the Church should change its teaching. A minority on the commission argued that the Church not only should not but could not change its teaching regarding contraception because this was a matter of God's law and not man's law, and there was no way that the Church or anyone else could declare it morally permissible.

The report of this vote and its recommendation, as well as all of the other records of the commission were, of course, to be kept strictly confidential, intended for the eyes of the Holy Father alone. They were meant to advise and assist him in the writing of a formal document. The commission finished its work in 1966. In 1967, the commission's records, including the report on its recommendation, were leaked to both The Tablet in London and to The National Catholic Reporter in the United States.

Interested parties had known about the commission and had been waiting for several years for the Church to make a decision. There had been an incredible proliferation of articles on the subject of contraception between 1963 and 1967, most of them favoring it. For instance, there was a book written by an Archbishop during these years under the title Contraception and Holiness, a text consisting of articles by married couples and others promoting the practice of contraception. The commission reports were undoubtedly leaked to fan these fires and they did, in fact, heighten the expectations of those desiring a change.

When Humanae Vitae was released in July, 1968, it went off like a bomb. Though there was much support for the encyclical, no document ever met with as much dissent, led to a great extent by Father Charles Curran and Father Bernard Haering.

It was a historic and pivotal moment in Church history. Dissent became the coin of the day. This had not been true prior to Humanae Vitae. Dissenting theologians had never before made such a public display of their opposition on any given issue. The open dissent to Humanae Vitae is a real watershed in the history of the Church. One can view the phenomenon as either a crystallization of something that had been bubbling under the surface for some time, or as catalyst for everything that was yet to come. Soon theologians and eventually lay people were dissenting not only about contraception but also about homosexuality, masturbation, adultery, divorce and many other issues.

In spite of the dissent and in spite of widespread use of contraception among Catholics, the Church continually reiterates its opposition to contraception as a great moral wrong; Pope John Paul II has made opposition to contraception one of the cornerstones of his pontificate and has written and spoken extensively on the topic.

I think the experience of the last many decades has revealed that the Church has been very wise in its continual affirmation of this teaching for we have begun to see that contraception leads to many vicious wrongs in society; it facilitates the sexual revolution which leads to much unwanted pregnancy and abortion. It has made women much more open to sexual exploitation by men. In fact, Humanae Vitae predicted a general lowering of morality should contraception become widely available and I think it is manifest that ours is a period of very low morality--much of it in the sexual realm. There is little need here to provide a full set of statistics to demonstrate the consequences of the sexual revolution, for who is not familiar with the epidemic in teenage pregnancies, venereal diseases, divorces, AIDS, etc.?

Western society has undergone a rapid transformation in terms of sexual behavior and few would argue that it is for the better. For instance, only ten years ago the divorce rate was one out of three marriages; now one out of two marriages end in divorce. Only ten years ago four out of ten teenagers were sexually active; now it is six out of ten. Twenty-two percent of white babies are born out of wedlock; sixty-seven percent of African-American babies are born out of wedlock. The millions of abortions over the last decade and the phenomenal spread of AIDS alone indicate that we have serious problems with sexuality. The statistics of ten years ago were bad enough; many thought things could hardly get worse -- as did many twenty years ago, and thirty years ago. In the last generation the incidence of sexual activity outside of marriage and all the attendant problems have doubled and tripled -- or worse. We have no particular reason to believe that we have seen the peak of the growth in sexually related problems.

Statistics do not really capture the pervasive ills attendant upon sexual immorality. Premature and promiscuous sexuality prevent many from establishing good marriages and a good family life. Few deny that a healthy sexuality and a strong family life are among the most necessary elements for human happiness and well-being. It is well attested that strong and secure families are less likely to have problems with alcohol, sex, and drugs; they produce individuals more likely to be free from crippling neuroses and psychoses. Since healthy individuals are not preoccupied with their own problems, they are able to be strong leaders; they are prepared to tackle the problems of society. While many single parents do a worthy and valiant job of raising their children, it remains sadly true that children from broken homes grow up to be adults with a greater propensity for crime, with a greater tendency to engage in alcohol and drug abuse, with a greater susceptibility to psychological disorders.

The Church, however, does not condemn the use of contraception because it is an act that has bad consequences. Rather, it teaches that since contraception is an intrinsically evil action, it is predictable that it will have bad consequences. The Church teaches that contraception is evil because it violates the very purpose and nature of the human sexual act, and therefore violates the dignity of the human person. The experience of the last several decades has simply served to reinforce the wisdom of the Church's teaching. But it is not only on a practical level that we have a better understanding of the Church's teaching; our theoretical understanding has also been much advanced. Often if happens that the Church does not know very fully the reasons for what it teaches until it is challenged. The Church's condemnation of contraception went unchallenged for centuries. In attempting to explain its condemnation, the Church has deepened its understanding of marriage and the meaning of the sexual act. Again, John Paul II, with his claim that the sexual act signifies total self-giving and his insight that contraception diminishes that self-giving, has made an enormous contribution to our understanding of the evil of contraception.

As we consider the reasons why contraception is evil, let us first consult a few Church statements that suggest the strength of its constant teaching against contraception. Casti Connubii states:

No reason, however grave, may be put forward by which anything intrinsically against nature may become conformable to nature and morally good. Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose, sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious.

It continues:

Any use whatsoever of matrimony, exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.

Humanae Vitae 11 puts it this way:

But the Church, which interprets natural law through its unchanging doctrine, reminds men and women that the teachings based on natural law must be obeyed, and teaches that it is necessary that each and every conjugal act remain ordained to the procreating of human life.

Further on it states (HV 12):

The doctrine which the Magisterium of the Church has often explicated in this: There is an unbreakable connection between the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning of the conjugal act, and both are inherent in the conjugal act. This connection was established by God and cannot be broken by man through his own volition.

The Church condemns contraception since it violates both the procreative and unitive meanings of the human sexual act. It diminishes an act that by its very nature is full of weighty meaning, meaning that is unique to the sexual act. To engage in an act of contracepted sexual intercourse is to engage in an act that has the potential for creating new life and an act that has the potential for creating tremendous emotional bonds between male and female and simultaneously to undercut those potentials. Sex is for babies and for bonding; if people are not ready for babies or bonding they ought not to be engaging in acts of sexual intercourse.

Our age is quick to express appreciation for the unitive meaning of the sexual act but has little understanding of the goodness of the procreative meaning of the sexual act. The modern age tends to treat babies as burdens and not as gifts. It tends to treat fertility as some dreadful condition that we need to guard against. We often speak of the "fear of pregnancy" -- a very curious phrase. A fear of poverty or nuclear holocaust or tyranny is understandable but why a fear of pregnancy? We speak about "accidental pregnancies" as if getting pregnant were like getting hit by a car -- some terrible accident has happened to us. But the truth is that if a pregnancy results from an act of sexual intercourse, this means that something has gone right with an act of sexual intercourse, not that something has gone wrong.

In our society we have lost sight of the fundamental truth that if you are not ready for babies, you are not ready for sexual intercourse. We have lost sight of the fact that sexual intercourse, making love, and making babies are inherently connected and for good reason. In our times, sexual relations are treated casually; no great commitment is implied in having sexual intercourse with another; babies are treated as an unwelcome intrusion on the sexual act. The Church opposes this attitude and insists that sexual intercourse and having children are intimately connected; that sexual intercourse implies a great commitment, that children are an inherent part of that commitment, and that both commitment and children are wonderful gifts.

It is good to keep in mind that fertility is a great good: to be fertile is a state of health for an adult person. It is those among us who are not fertile who need to be helped and who seek treatment for infertility. Women now take a "pill" to thwart their fertility, as if fertility were a disease against which we need a cure. Contraception treats the woman's body as if there were something wrong with it. The use of contraception suggests that God made a mistake in the way that He designed the body and that we must correct His error. In an age where we have become very wary of dumping pollutants into the environment it is ironic that we are so willing to dump pollutants into our bodies. The health risks of contraception to women are considerable -- take a look at the insert pages in any package of the pill. The IUD is currently off the market because of so many lawsuits against manufacturers. Why do women expose themselves to such risks when natural methods of family planning are both safe and effective?

Let us not fail to metion that many forms of contraception are abortifacients; they work by causing an early term abortion. Rather than inhibiting ovulation, they work by preventing the fertilized egg, the tiny new human being, from implanting in the wall of the uterus. The IUD works in this fashion as do most forms of the pill (on occasion) and norplant. So those who are opposed to abortion and those interested in protecting the well-being of women would certainly not want to be using these forms of contraception. The other forms have aesthetic drawbacks or are low on reliability.

Contraception, then, enters a note of tremendous negation into the act of sexual intercourse. But lovemaking should be a most wonderful act of affirmation, a tremendous "yes" to another person, a way of conveying to another that he or she is wonderful, and completely accepted; this is conveyed by making a total gift of one's self to another. The contracepting lover says I want to give myself to you but not to the extent of sharing my fertility with you; I want you but not your sperm (or your egg)!

Just think of the words for contraception. Contraception means "against the beginning" -- here against the beginning of a new life. So a contracepting couple is participating in an act that is designed to bring about new life and they are acting against that new life. Or they put their barrier methods in place -- for "protection": as if they were making war, not love. Or they use a spermicide -- to kill the sperm. This is an act of love?

But we forget what a marvelous thing it is to be able to bring forth a new human being. God chooses to bring forth new human life through the love of spouses. The entire world was created for us and for others like us. God wishes to share His creation with new human souls, and brings new souls into the world through the love of men and women for each other. God created the world as an act of love, and the bringing forth of new human life is, quite appropriately, the product of another kind of loving act. When a man and women have a child together, it's an act that changes the cosmos: something has come into existence that will never pass out of existence; each soul is immortal and is destined for immortal life.

And whenever a new human life comes into existence, God performs an entirely new act of creation, for only God can create an immortal soul. In sexual intercourse, spouses provide God with an opportunity to perform His creative act. As the first line of Humanae Vitae states, God gives spouses the mission (munus) of transmitting human life to spouses. Contraception says no to God; it says those using it want to have the wonderful physical pleasure of sex but do not want to allow God to perform His creative act.

But contraception is wrong not only because it violates the procreative meaning of the sexual act but also because it violates the unitive meaning of the sexual act. Pope John Paul II has been most energetic in explaining how couples do not achieve true spousal union in sexual intercourse when they use contraception. He explains that the sexual act is meant to be an act of total self-giving and that in withholding their fertility from one another spouses are not giving totally of themselves. He has developed an interesting line of argument where he speaks of the "language of the body." He claims bodily actions have meanings much as words do and that unless we intend those meanings with our actions we should not perform them any more than we should speak words we don't mean. In both cases, lies are being "spoken."

Sexual union has a well-recognized meaning; it means "I find you attractive"; "I care for you"; " I will try to work for your happiness"; "I wish to have a deep bond with you." Some who engage in sexual intercourse do not mean these things with their actions; they wish simply to use another for their own sexual pleasure. They have lied with their bodies in the same way as someone lies who says "I love you" to another simply for the purposes of obtaining some favor from him or her.

It is easy for us to want to have sexual intercourse with lots of people; but we generally want to have babies with only one person. One is saying something entirely different with one's body when one says "I want only to have sexual pleasure with you" and when one says "I am willing to be a parent with you." In fact, one of the most certain ways to distinguish simple sexual attraction from love is to think about whether all you want from another person is sexual pleasure, or whether you would like to have a baby with him or her. We generally are truly in love with those with whom we want to have babies; we do want our lives totally tied up with theirs. We want to become one with them in the way in which having a baby makes us one with another -- our whole lives are intertwined with theirs; we buy diapers with them, and give birthday parties, and pay for college and plan weddings. A noncontracepted act of sexual intercourse says again just what our marriage vows say "I am yours for better or worse, in sickness and health, till death do us part." Having babies with another is to share a lifetime endeavor with another.

A sexual act open to the possibility of procreation ideally represents the kind of bond to which spouses have committed themselves. Contraceptives, however, convey the message that while sexual intercourse is desired, there is no desire for a permanent bond with the other person. The possibility of an everlasting bond has been willfully removed from the very act designed to best express the desire for such a relationship. It reduces the sexual act to a lie.

Contraception, then, is an offense against one's body, against one's God, and against one's relationship with one's spouse.

But must spouses have as many children as is physically possible? This has never been the teaching of the Church. Spouses are expected to be responsible about their child-bearing, to bring forth children that they can raise well. But the means used to limit family size must be moral. Methods of Natural Family Planning are very effective means and moral means for planning one's family; for helping spouses to get pregnant when they want to have a child and for helping them to avoid having a child when it would not be responsible to have a child. NFP allows couples to respect their bodies, obey their God, and fully respect their spouses.

Natural Family Planning is not the out-moded rhythm method, a method which was based on the calendar. Rather, NFP is a highly scientific way of determining when a woman is fertile based on observing various bodily signs. The couple who want to avoid a pregnancy, abstain from sexual intercourse during the fertile period. The statistics on the reliability of NFP rival the most effective forms of the Pill. And NFP is without the health risks and it is moral.

Couples using NFP find that it has positive results for their marital relationships and their relationship with God. When couples are abstaining during the fertile period they are not thwarting the act of sexual intercourse since they are not engaging in sexual intercourse. When they are engaging in sexual intercourse during the infertile period they are not withholding their fertility since they do not have it to give at that time. They learn to live in accord with the natural rhythms of their body. In a word, use of NFP may involve non-procreative acts, but never, as with contraception, antiprocreative acts.

Many find it odd that periodic abstinence should be beneficial rather than harmful to a marriage. But abstinence can be another way of expressing love, as it is between those who are not married, or between those for whom engaging in sexual intercourse involves a significant risk. Certainly most who begin to use NFP, especially those who were not chaste before marriage and who have used contraception, generally find the abstinence required to be a source of some strain and irritability. Abstinence, of course, like dieting or any form of self-restraint, brings its hardships; but like dieting and other forms of self-denial, it also brings its benefits. And after all, spouses abstain for all sorts of reasons -- because one or the other is out of town or ill, for instance.

Spouses using NFP find that the method helps them learn to communicate better with each other -- and abstinence gives them the opportunity to do so. As they learn to communicate their affection in non-genital ways and as they learn to master their sexual desires, they find a new liberation in the ability to abstain from sexual intercourse. Many find that an element of romance reenters the relationship during the times of abstinence and an element of excitement accompanies the reuniting. They have gained the virtue of self-mastery since now they can control their sexual desires rather than being in control of their sexual desires. Women using NFP generally feel revered by their husbands since their husbands do not make them use unhealthy and unpleasant contraceptives. Men using NFP generally have greater self-respect since they have gained control over their sexual desires and can now engage in sexual intercourse as an act of love not as an act of mere sexual urgency. A proof that NFP is good for a marriage is that whereas in the U.S. over fifty percent of marriages end in divorce (and it is safe to assume that most of these couples are contracepting), very, very few couples who use NFP ever divorce; they seem to bond in a deeper way than those who are contracepting.

The Church condemns contraception not because it wants to deny spouses sexual pleasure but because it wants to help them find marital happiness and to help them have happy homes for without these our well being as individuals and as a society is greatly endangered. Section 18 of Humanae Vitae states:

. . .it is not surprising that the Church finds herself a sign of contradiction--just as was Christ, her Founder. But this is not reason for the Church to abandon the duty entrusted to her of preaching the moral law firmly and humbly, both the natural law and the law of the Gospel.

Since the Church did not make either of these laws, she cannot change them. She can only be their guardian and interpreter; thus it would never be right for her to declare as morally permissible that which is truly not so. For what is immoral is by its very nature always opposed to the true good of Man.

By preserving the whole moral law of marriage, the Church knows that she is supporting the growth of a true civilization among men.

In teaching that contraception is intrinsically immoral, the Church is not imposing a disciplinary law on Catholics; she is preaching only what nature and the gospel preach. By now we should have learned -- the hard way -- that to defy and overindulge our sexual nature, to go against the laws of nature and God, is to inflict terrible damage on ourselves as individuals and our society as a whole.

3 posted on 09/03/2003 1:28:18 PM PDT by Polycarp (When a mother can kill her own child, what is left of the West to save?" - Mother Theresa)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Polycarp
Thanks for posting this. I would enjoy being included on your ping list too, if I may.
4 posted on 09/03/2003 2:13:54 PM PDT by Flying Circus (orthodoxy requires orthopraxy)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Polycarp
Excellent article. The statistics are very useful in helping to debate with fellow Christians why contraception is a serious evil.

5 posted on 09/03/2003 2:37:26 PM PDT by Gophack
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Comment #6 Removed by Moderator

To: Polycarp
Good post. It's amazing to read that the Washington Post would editorialize against contraception. Things, sure have changed.
7 posted on 09/03/2003 2:49:32 PM PDT by St.Chuck
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Polycarp
All these things are true and are bothering me.

What is also bothering me is I can't in good conscience tell someone not to use birth control when having so many children is impossible in our society for the average person, no matter what religion they are.

It is also nearly impossible to have a lot of childre in poor countries.

I'd be much more open to the message of the church if they told people just how they can have just an average standard of living with say five kids using their own resources.

I've really agonized about this issue pro and con, and it only seems to work for families who have good educations and better-than-average jobs where the wife can stay home.

When my ex-husband got out of high school, he got a good blue collar job and with his insurance and benefits, we could conceivably have raised 10 children with a little scrimping with no outside or government help. For the life of me, I look at our young kids today in ANY country and can't imagine how any of them could manage anything close to that in our modern world.

If people would just tell people HOW to do things rather than preach at them NOT to do it, I would feel better about the whole thing. Yes, we are all dependent on God and I have had tremendous faith that He would provide at times, but telling whole societies not to use birth control and God will provide surpasses my faith quotient.

Can I just ask you if you personally had married at 20 or so in America, what kind of job would you look for to support your family, with no Government help?

Back when people lived on farms and grew their own food, it worked a lot better. In industrial societies, it is hard to imagine how everybody could have a basic lifestyle and a lot of kids if they don't have a super job. I know some manage to do it, but all people just can't unless they live in a closed community with a lot of support such as the Mormons and Hassidic Jews who have lots of kids and manage rather well.

My granddaughter's father had a catholic family of six, it broke down, and four of the children had to be adopted by relatives. I suspect financial strain in a community without good jobs had something to do with it. Alcohol also played a part. They were what you would call average catholics, not elite catholics with super educations. Granddaughter's father ending up jumping in front of a semi, so all this really hits close to home.

8 posted on 09/03/2003 3:28:35 PM PDT by Aliska
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Akron Al; Alberta's Child; Aloysius; Andrew65; AniGrrl; Antoninus; As you well know...; BBarcaro; ..
9 posted on 09/03/2003 3:40:41 PM PDT by Loyalist
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Flying Circus
10 posted on 09/03/2003 3:44:55 PM PDT by Polycarp (PRO-LIFE--without exception, without compromise, without apology.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: Marcellinus
You've been added to the list.
11 posted on 09/03/2003 3:46:32 PM PDT by Polycarp (PRO-LIFE--without exception, without compromise, without apology.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Aliska
when having so many children is impossible in our society for the average person

This is what the world claims, but this is not a Christian perspective. I have close friends with only a high school education who have 12 children, all homeschooled.

He started out in construction, learned carpentry, now builds furniture in his basement shop for a living. He supports a wife and 12 children, 2 now in college, working with his hands.

They have never had health insurance, but everyone is still doing just fine. They make do with far less material things per child than 99% of American families, but I defy you to find happier, better adjusted or better mannered or better educated kids.

Eight of the twelve play either violin, viola, or cello. Dad has taught himself how to make them himself.

The oldest two perform in the local adult symphony, and 4 more perform in the local youth symphony. The oldest two both earned full scholarships to Indiana University of Pennsylvania for music degrees.

I have seen the hard cses. I have seen the proof that it is NOT impossible to have a large fmily, even folks who entered a profession straight out of high school.

Do not despair of God's Providence.

The only thing lacking for large families to thrive is the willingness to sacrifice to make it happen and reject the materialistic obsession of this world.

12 posted on 09/03/2003 3:57:07 PM PDT by Polycarp (PRO-LIFE--without exception, without compromise, without apology.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: Aliska

I empathize with your concerns, but...

Are you aware that switching from baby formula to breast-feeding alone can halve the number of children a woman has? And marriage does not mean that the couple must have sex constantly. Periodic abstinence may be advisable. 12 children may be too many, but three or four are healthy. (2 seems the best for wealth.)

But mostly, people do need to put their trust in God to provide. The chastisement may be horrifying: Within decades, European civilization will be in ruins, if something doesn't change fast, because no-one is having babies. They will be overrun by chaotic hordes of Muslims, follwed by an absolute collapse of the financial system. At current birth rates, the population of Italy in 2300 will be THREE! The modern, western economy is built on growth. The response, to import millions of aliens, is devestating both to our economy, and the economies of the nations that we receive them from. But that is the reason why we don't have such a dire population problem.

Overpopulation exists in East Africa, and Asia. Not in the Western world. We, as a society, desperately NEED people to make babies, and most people who consider it a luxurious option end up working to make it harder on those who have children. ("Why should I pay for their schools?" "Why should they get family sick leave?" "Why shouldn't dependents pay tax?") They don't know that their 901K plans, mutual funds and social security policies are worthless if there is not a next generation to provide the economic growth.
13 posted on 09/03/2003 4:01:55 PM PDT by dangus
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: Aliska
if they told people just how they can have just an average standard of living

How do you make folks understand that they don't need that bigger house, that third or fourth or fifth TV, that second, third and fourth computer, those designer clothes, that "best" college, that expensive vacation, those braces (11th Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Have Crooked Teeth?), the better car/third car/ fourth car, another VCR, a satellite dish, the boat, the membership at the golf club/gym/spa, etc etc etc?

Anyone can have an adequate standard of living if they change their attitudes and realize that 90% of what they thought were necessities were actually false gods.

14 posted on 09/03/2003 4:04:06 PM PDT by Polycarp (PRO-LIFE--without exception, without compromise, without apology.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: Polycarp
That is an exceptional family and an inspiration. I don't know if others could be expected to do that as well or not.
15 posted on 09/03/2003 4:11:26 PM PDT by Aliska
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: Polycarp
Your #14. Is that how you live personally? You sound highly educated and I'll bet your standard of living is way above average.

It's amazing, but for food and shelter (you need at least one of those older four-bedroom homes for a lot of kids or expand a smaller one), you can furnish your entire home and clothe yourself on garage sales and salvation army stores. You can drive decent second-hand cars. Kids don't need all those toys. It's amazing what you really don't need. I couldn't presume to tell the young that's how they will HAVE to live. It is their choice.

Health costs are another matter if all your children aren't healthy and if you don't have insurance. Health costs didn't used to matter because most families of old had many children die which wouldn't happen today if you can get the medical attention.

16 posted on 09/03/2003 4:18:05 PM PDT by Aliska
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: dangus
All you say is true and I don't have a fix. Just having lots of kids isn't going to fix things now. The problem goes a lot deeper than that.
17 posted on 09/03/2003 4:20:31 PM PDT by Aliska
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: dangus
Are you aware that switching from baby formula to breast-feeding alone can halve the number of children a woman has?

Yes! I did genealogy and the kids used to be spaced about two years apart, just like clockwork!

I couldn't breastfeed. I think kids are emotionally healthier when they are breastfed.

18 posted on 09/03/2003 4:26:21 PM PDT by Aliska
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: Aliska
You sound highly educated and I'll bet your standard of living is way above average.

1) I'm a doctor, if you consider that "highly educated." 2) For reasons I will not outline here, my income is BELOW average. Yet my wife, who has a PA teacher's certificate, does not work but stays home and homeschools our children.

19 posted on 09/03/2003 4:36:45 PM PDT by Polycarp (PRO-LIFE--without exception, without compromise, without apology.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: Aliska
That is an exceptional family and an inspiration. I don't know if others could be expected to do that as well or not.

100 years ago they would not have been seen as exceptional at all, and EVERYONE WAS expected to do what they are doing.

The only thing that has changed is the heart of men, and their distance from God and reliance on His Providence.

20 posted on 09/03/2003 4:39:10 PM PDT by Polycarp (PRO-LIFE--without exception, without compromise, without apology.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-2021-4041-6061-70 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson