Most people believe that contraceptives are OK, a personal choice like antibacterial soap or seat belts – most of the time, they think it just makes sense to use a condom. People have sex after all, and there’s no need to spread STD’s and unwanted babies. Use a condom or a pill. Then here comes the Pope and bishops flipping out about contraceptives and saying “no”. Critics wonder why the Catholic Church doesn’t just stick to prayers and pretty clothes for the priests, and leave real life to people who live it. Then they say if there is anybody that has no business preaching about sex, it’s the Catholic Church.
As in many things, the Catholic response to contraception is based on the most fundamental principles of human life. It is borne of 2,000 years contemplating God’s revelation, forming what Joseph Cardinal Bernardin called “a seamless garment” of truth concerning what it means to be human and to affirm life.
Here are some talking points that are good to keep in mind if the subject of Catholics and contraception comes up.
The rock-solid rock bottom of the Catholic opposition to contraceptives. It might be tempting to open a paint can with a car key, but it isn’t a very good idea. First, that’s not what a car key is made for and second, when the key breaks there are just terrible consequences. It’s like that with contraceptives.
Sex has purpose. God gave us sex in order (1)to create human souls and (2)to unite husband and wife in an unparalleled way as they give themselves completely to each other. Contraceptives by their very nature, by their very intent, by the methods they employ, oppose these two purposes. A barrier is placed between the couple, a failure to give oneself wholly is encouraged, and new human souls are made nearly impossible.
By using contraceptives, sex that is selfish (as opposed to self-giving) and sterile (as opposed to creating human souls) is encouraged. Contraceptives encourage the explosion of casual sex we have seen in America since the mid-1960’s. Sex is used for the wrong reasons and there are terrible consequences. Sexual predation and addiction, pornography, multiple partners, broken marriages, prevented marriages, the living of life at a superficial level to find only personal gratification in physical pleasure. Contraception encourages all of these and more because the two intended purposes of sex are violated. Sex becomes just a recreational activity, something to do on Saturday night if you’re lucky.
Even with married people, contraceptives oppose the two-fold purpose of sex.
Condoms do not even prevent pregnancy and STD’s overall. There’s no point denying that in a single sexual encounter, contraceptives greatly diminish pregnancies and STD’s. That’s what they do. But since the ready availability of contraceptives enabled the explosion of casual sex in the last 50 years, in the overall situation they increase the incidence of unwanted pregnancies and STD’s. People are having way more sex and the end result is more unwanted pregnancies, more abortions, and more STD’s – because so many more sex acts occur.
Contraceptives do not cause all of this just by themselves, but they do provide the necessary ground (the technology, if you will) for people to let sex be casual, repetitive and intended for no other purpose than pleasure.
People keep saying they read that “98% of Catholic women use contraceptives sometime in their life.” This has been all over the newspapers, despite the fact that figure is pure bull feathers. Like a lot of statistics, this one has been thrown around in the last few weeks by folks who either don’t understand what they are citing or (this one’s my guess… Am I just paranoid?) by people who will grab at anything that has any chance of bashing the Catholic Church. Here’s a lot of detail on this phony statistic.
Nothing like 98% of Catholic women use contraceptives at some point in their life. To be sure, tragically the per cent of Catholic women who do is still way too high, but that does not alter the truth of the Church’s consistent opposition to contraception.
Was Pope Paul VI some kind of prophet? Or does the Catholic Church just understand these things? It seems impossible to deny that sexual objectification of women has exploded in the last 20 years. Internet porn. The almost universal use of sex to sell everything. 10-year-old girls dressing like sex objects. Women subjecting themselves to eating disorders in order to conform to some standard of sexual desirability.
Pope Paul VI wrote this in his almost infamous and definitely prophetic 1968 encyclical Humanae vitae:
It is also to be feared that the man, 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.
For the entire history of Christianity, there has been almost universal opposition to contraception. What was once the universal opposition in all Christianity to contraception, is now maintained only by the Catholic Church. Only we are left. Here’s some history on that.
It is not as if the Catholic Church dreamed up the opposition to contraception so it could spoil the party. The Church has always taught this. It has nothing to do with a male hierarchy, nothing to do with celibate priests, and nothing to do with a reaction to modern life. It has everything to do with the glory of human life and the exalted purpose of sex.
It matters what a thing is made for.
Sex is made to create new human souls and to join man and woman in marriage.
The 2,000-year teaching of the Church opposes contraception and is prophetic.