I was pleasantly surprised by the positive reception I received from several of our parishioners on the recent letter I wrote defending Blessed Pope Paul VI’s very controversial encyclical, “Humanae Vitae.” It seems as though we have had a few years under our belt to do a deep analysis of that teaching of the Church, more people are seeing the wisdom in the perceptive writing of that learned pope. So, today, I would like to continue developing some of those themes first proclaimed nearly half a century ago.
One of the most difficult teachings for people (Catholics and non-Catholics alike) to understand is the Catholic Church’s position on contraception. In all its many forms, contraception has been promoted by our culture as the cure for a vast array of human problems: divorce, child abuse, unwanted children, overpopulation, STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), abortion pregnancy and many others. Unfortunately, when contraception is applied to these problems, just about all of them (with the possible exception of overpopulation) get worse! What’s going on?
Contraceptive use attacks married and unmarried relationships at their core. Using contraceptives in a relationship outside of marriage promotes the idea that people can have sex without consequences. Reality enters in the form of STDs, undesired pregnancy, broken dreams, and years of dead-end relationships. Using contraceptives within a marriage fosters the idea that sex is a “plaything.”
Actually, sex is one of the strongest tools a couple can use to strengthen their relationship. Any married couple will testify that eventually they need all the relationship strength they can get. Treating sex like a toy leaves both partners feeling used because they are being used! After years of this, many couples divorce. These devastated relationships and broken marriages lead to millions of children being reared by one parent or none. Damaged families rear troubled children – the children whose problems we read about in the news every day.
The social consequences of contraception are millions of badly traumatized adults and millions of children being reared under difficult, and sometimes very harmful conditions. In this very harsh environment, killing becomes an easy solution for human problems – killing unwanted children, killing the useless elderly, killing anyone who is a “problem.” This is the culture of death that was promoted by Hitler – that did not die when he did – the very culture in which we now live.
The Church is convinced that love within families is the basis of civilization. Strong and loving marriages, open to life, develop the relationships that bind society together. They also form, one by one, the new members who will build a society up instead of tearing it down. Conversely, the breakdown of family love leads to every sort of barbarism. The love of God moves us, therefore, to build up a Culture of Life as best we can, and to weaken the Culture of Death by any means available.
Are there any other types of harm done by contraception? Certainly! Absolutely! The Pill kills around 10,000 women in the U.S. each year through breast cancer, and many thousands of others through other forms of cancer and different diseases. The cultural norm of promiscuity (based on contraception) kills hundreds of people every year and maims countless others by means of STD (sexually transmitted diseases), domestic violence and in many other ways. The horror of abortion marches on, driven by the contraceptive mentality that thinks of children as a curse, and abortion as “backup contraception.”
These evils, however, are just the surface problem. The deeper reality is the destruction of people’s hearts and lives as marriages and families are torn apart, and single people are devastated by promiscuity. We need to teach people to live in love – real love – to be fully alive in the Culture of Love. We need to inform people about the harm of contraception (and sterilization), while directing them to NFP (Natural Family Planning) techniques that meet with the moral standards of our faith and the Church’s teaching. Single people have to be convinced of the necessity to live chaste lives with God’s help, for today’s society seems to be revealing the sadly tragic consequences of a “devil-may-care” attitude regarding matters of human sexuality.
All of this can help promote the Culture of Life and eventually do away with the Culture of Death. Above all, we need to listen to the 2,000 year-old wisdom of our Mother, the Church. Believe it or not, Mother does know best!