Monday, January 18, 2016

Why Questions about Contraception Still Matter

Robin: "Did the Pope just...?" (
If you are among the vast number of Catholics who understand the gravity of the respect life issue, but don't get the Church's ongoing concerns about contraception, here are four reasons why you should keep an open mind on the topic:
  1. Because fifty years of a failed social experiment is enough. Perhaps you think contraception has been good for your marriage and has helped you lead a more virtuous, Christ-centered life. My personal experience is that the Church's beautiful teaching on natural family planning offers a path for husbands and wives to embrace the Beatitudes and to explore God's vision for a holy marriage (using the best science of our day, since NFP is not your grandmother's "rhythm method"!). So this could be a great conversation for friends to enter into.

    However, on a social level, objective observers should recognize that the almost ubiquitous  use of contraception has failed to deliver on the very promises its advocates once championed: out of wedlock births have skyrocketed; abortions have continued in their appalling seven-digit pace, year after year; sexually transmitted diseases continue to mutate even as infection rates spiral out of control; then there is the pandemic of marital infidelity and divorce.

    Thirty or forty years ago, perhaps we could say that we didn't know any better.  But now that we have seen the "fruits" of this failed experiment, why would we want to continue imposing this way of life on the next generation? Isn't the more Christian response to hope that we are capable of something better--given that we now have a better understanding of the alternatives?
  2. Because we should be merciful toward Holy Mother Church (after all, it's the Year of Mercy!).  Let's face it, most people have not heard compelling reasons why they should resist the world's contraceptive mentality. God's revelation about the meaning and purpose of human sexuality have not magically "trickled down" to the people in the pews.

    Indeed most pastoral leaders have given up trying to show how Christians could be liberated from current versions of secular "sexolotry" (although in "Create in me a Clean Heart" the U.S. Bishops have recently addressed the widespread addiction to pornography, so closely predicated on the separation of sex from procreation and/or even a loving relationship of husband and wife). And most people are afraid to question the myth of overpopulation, even as we watch the "demographic winter" hit western Europe and the birth rates in the U.S. fall below replacement levels (without the influx of new immigrants).

    Nonetheless, from Bl. Paul VI's prophetic teaching in Humanae Vitae (check out paragraph #17's predictions, written almost 50 years ago!), through St. John Paul II's inspired insights regarding a "theology of the body," to Pope Francis' current concern about an integral human ecology in his environmental encyclical, there is a wealth of philosophical and theological insights that support the "green sex" movement the new pro-life generation.
  3. Because of the intrinsic and unavoidable link with abortion. Whether or not you think that tax dollars need to fund Planned Parenthood, it should be clear to all Americans that this organization knows how closely contraception is tied to abortion. After all, the widespread promotion of contraceptives for teenagers has not led to a reduction in abortions at Planned Parenthood. Rather, the nation's largest abortion provider consistently delivers hundreds of thousands each year precisely because it dispenses lots of contraceptives.

    Why is this? The national Center for Disease Control clearly states that, out of 100 women who use various forms of contraceptive pills, patches, injections or diaphragms, there is a 6-12% failure rate (rates go up for condoms).  Don't we all know someone who got pregnant even while being "safe"?  Of course, it's statistically inevitable.  So, if 100 million women were all using multiple forms of contraception, a mere 1% failure rate would still mean 1 million "unwanted" pregnancies each year. According to the CDC, even female sterilization has a 0.5% failure rate per 100 women; still not good news if multiplied by tens of thousands.

    Perhaps this can help us be more sympathetic toward the large number of Catholics who have found themselves pondering the abortion alternative. But, just because we have been duped, doesn't mean we have to withhold the truth from our children and grandchildren: Don't we want them to hear the full story about what contraceptives guarantee to deliver--lots of "unintended" pregnancies?

  4. Because we should defend conscience protection now, and so preserve it for later. Even if none of this is helpful to you at this point of your life's journey, shouldn't we be concerned that the federal government insists on imposing the contraceptive mandate on the Little Sisters of the Poor and Catholic health care providers? If you would not want to have your own conscience violated about X (fill in the blank: participating in an unjust war; contributing to environmental degradation; funding euthanasia), this is the time to say that reasonable people should have right to dissent from questionable executive mandates.
In closing, respect for the dignity of the human person is the foundation and first principle of Catholic social teaching.  It should inform all public policy in a country which espouses the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Respect for the dignity of the human person should also inspire us to accept the gift of our sexuality, to integrate this gift within ourselves, and to hear Jesus anew: "Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God" (Mt 5:8). After all, the Pope is never going to change this one!