HumanaeVitaeIn discussing the Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandate that will attempt to force the Catholic Church to pay for contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization, I have discovered that many Catholics, while generally understanding why we object to paying for sterilization and abortifacients, are less than enthusiastic about our refusal to pay for contraceptives. This “lack of enthusiasm” for the Church’s position on Contraception, along with political irritation, makes many Catholics ambivalent or even hostile to the Bishop’s call that we oppose the HHS mandate.

Why we won’t pay for contraceptives – While the fundamental issue is this matter is Religious Freedom and the First Amendment, (which we have discussed here before and will again in the future), it may be worthwhile to focus for a moment on why we religiously oppose the use and funding of contraceptives. This discussion on contraception cannot be complete in a brief blog post, but setting forth the principled reasons of the Church teaching may be helpful.

In looking at the issue, we might begin by looking at the “big picture.” For while many people fail to see why contraception is harmful in a particular marriage, it is easier for them to begin to see the harm that contraceptives have caused in our wider culture. Looking at some of the harm may be of help in addressing the overall negative attitude that many, including most Catholics, bring to the Church teaching on Contraception.

For indeed, a generation has passed since the publication of the boldly pastoral and prophetic encyclical Humanae Vitae which upheld the ancient ban on the use of artificial contraception. Perhaps no teaching of the Church causes the worldly to scoff more than our teaching against artificial contraception. The eyes of so many, Catholics among them, roll and the scoffing begins: Unrealistic! Out of touch! Uncompassionate! Silly! You’ve got to be kidding!

The Lord Jesus had an answer to those who ridiculed him in a similar way: Time will prove where wisdom lies. (Matt 11:16-18)

And to a large degree time has proven where wisdom lies. For some forty or more years after widespread acceptance of contraception many grave cultural consequences have set in, related to sexuality and mistaken notions of sex. Among the consequences are: widespread and open promiscuity, which has led to higher and higher levels of STDs, abortion, teenage pregnancy, single parent homes, divorce, and to a decline in marriage rates. Recall that advocates of contraceptives, beginning in the 1950s and into the 1960s made many promises of the “benefits” of contraceptives.

The Promises of the Contraception Advocates:

  1. Happier Marriages and a lower divorce rates since couples could have all the sex they wanted without “fear” of pregnancy.
  2. Lower abortion rates since there would be far fewer “unwanted” children.
  3. Greater dignity for women who will no longer be “bound” by their reproductive system.
  4. More recently contraceptive advocates have touted the medical benefits of preventing STDs and AIDS especially by the use of condoms.

Paul VI in refuting these benefits made a few predictions of his own.

What were some of the concerns and predictions made by Pope Paul VI? (All of these are quotes from Humanae Vitae)

  1. Consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity (Humanae Vitae (HV) # 17)
  2. A general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. (HV # 17)
  3. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection. (HV # 17)
  4. Who will prevent public authorities from…impos[ing] their use on everyone. (HV # 17)

So, forty years later, who had the wisdom to see the true effects of Contraception, the world or the Church? Well lets consider some of the data:

  1. The divorce rate did not decline. It skyrocketed. Divorce rates soared through the 1970s to to the 1990s to almost 50% of marriages failing. In recent years the divorce rate has dropped slightly but this may also be due to the fact that far fewer people get married in the first place, preferring to cohabitate and engage in a kind of serial polygamy drifting from relationship to relationship. The overall divorce rate despite its slight drop remains high, hovering in the low 40% range. Contraceptive advocates claim that divorce is a complicated matter. True enough. But they cannot have it both ways, claiming that contraception would be a “simple” fix to make marriages happier and then, when they are so horrifyingly wrong, claiming that divorce is “complicated.” Paul VI on the other hand predicted rough sailing for marriage in advent of contraception. Looks like the Pope was right.
  2. Abortion rates did not decrease. They too skyrocketed. Within five years the pressure to have more abortion available led to its “legalization” in 1973. It has been well argued that, far from decreasing the abortion rate, contraception actually fueled it. Since contraception routinely fails, abortion became the “contraception of last recourse.” Further, just as the Pope predicted sexual immorality became widespread and this too led to higher rates of abortion. It is hard to compare promiscuity rates between periods since people “lie” a lot when asked about such things. But one would have to be very myopic not to notice the huge increase in open promiscuity, cohabitation, pornography and the like. All of this bad behavior, made more possible by contraceptives, also fuels abortion rates. Chalk up another one for the Pope and the Church.
  3. The question of women’s dignity is hard to measure and different people have different measures. Women do have greater career choices. But is career or vocation the true source of one’s dignity? One’s dignity is surely more than their economic and utilitarian capacity. Sadly, motherhood has taken a real back seat in popular culture. And, as the Pope predicted women have been hypersexualized as well. (Yesterday’s Superbowl Ads featured large amounts of female nudity to sell even products like Doritos). The dignity of women as wives and mothers has been set aside in favor of the sexual pleasure they offer. As the Pope predicted many modern men, no longer bound by marriage for sexual satisfaction, use women and discard them on a regular basis. Men “get what they want” and it seems many women are willing to supply it rather freely. In this scenario men win. Women are often left with STDs, they are often left with children, and as they get older and “less attractive” they are often left alone. I am not sure this is dignity. But you decide who is right and if women really have won in the “new morality” that contraception helped usher in. I think the Pope wins this point as well.
  4. As for preventing STDs and AIDS, again, big failure. STDs did not decrease and were not prevented. Infection rates skyrocketed through the 1970s and 1980s. AIDS which appeared on the scene later continues to show horribly high rates. Where is the promised deliverance? Contraceptives it seems, do not prevent anything. Rather they encourage the spread of these diseases by encouraging the bad behavior that causes them. Here too it looks like the Church was right and the world was wrong.
  5. Add to this list the huge teenage pregnancy rates, the devastation of single parent families, broken hearts and even poverty. The link to poverty may seem obscure, but the bottom line is that single motherhood is the chief cause of poverty in this country. Contraception encourages promiscuity. Promiscuity leads to teenage pregnancy. Teenage pregnancy leads to single motherhood (absent fatherhood). Single motherhood leads to welfare and poverty. Currently in the inner city over 80% of homes are headed by single mothers. It is the single highest factor related to poverty.
  6. Declining birth rates are also having terrible effects on contracepting cultures. Europe as we have known it is simply going out of existence. And while many debate endlessly over demographic data and how to interpret it,  Europe’s future seems increasingly Muslim and the social network wherein the young care for the old has been largely gutted.  I have written more on this HERE: Contraception is Cultural Suicide! Likewise here in the USA white and African American communities are below replacement level. Thankfully our immigrants are largely Christian and share our American vision. But for the Church the declining birthrates are now resulting in closing schools, parishes, declining vocations and the like. We cannot sustain what we have on a population that is no longer replacing itself. Immigration has insulated us from this to some extent, but low Mass attendance has eclipsed that growth and we are starting to shut down a lot of our operations.
  7. Sexual Confusion – Contraception “decouples” sex from having children. It emphasizes sex as pleasure. for its own sake,  and simply for the bonding of the adults involved. And while the Church does teach that marital sex does have a unitive dimension, it is not to be separated from its link to the procreative dimension. Having largely separated out the procreative dimension from sex, leads to a loss in the sacredness of sex. For if sex is just for pleasure, and not intrinsically related to having children, why should it be thought of as so sacred or serious. And why wait until marriage and maturity to start having it? And if sex is just about adults having pleasure and sharing intimate love, then many stop understanding why homosexual acts (which cannot be open to procreation) are flawed and intrinsically disordered.
  8. Thus we have sown in the wind and are now reaping the whirlwind.
  9. And of course it is the children who ultimately pay. For, even though we have tried through a contraceptive mentality to say that sex has little to do with having children, the fact is it does. And our children are born into a cultural whirlwind that is largely caused by sexual confusion and irresponsibility. And contraceptives and the contraceptive mentality have been a huge factor in the unraveling of our sexual sensibilities, and the breakdown of our families. Bad behavior has been encouraged, and all the bad consequences that flow from it are flourishing.

Most people seem largely disinterested in this data. Hearts have become numb and minds have gone to sleep. I hope you are not among them, and that you might consider this information well and share it with others. Time HAS proved where wisdom lay. It’s time to admit the obvious

What I have tried to do here is to show some of the reasons the Church opposes the use and promotion of contraceptive practices. There are actually insights that bring forth this opposition. It is not just a backward bunch of clerics in the Vatican opposing sex. Rather it is an ancient wisdom that makes good sense.

When sex is decoupled from child-bearing many grave distortions are introduced into a culture. As the proper understanding of sex becomes unraveled, so does the family. And it is children who suffer most.

While the crisis of Western Culture has more than contraception for its cause, contraception has still played a huge role in setting off many whirlwinds that have swept away much that was good. It is no accident or mere coincidence that in the very 50 years that contraceptives have become widely available and used, that the family has gone into a kind of nuclear winter. The statistics make it clear that more than half of children (and far more in minority communities) will never know the two parent family that most of us who are over fifty experienced as normal and ubiquitous.

Of course another fundamental reason we oppose Contraception is rooted in the ancient practice, stretching back into biblical times and carried forward all through the Christian era. Until the 1940 Lambeth conference there never was a Christian Church or communion who approved of contraception. In that fateful year the Anglican Church of England gave the first tip of the hat to contraceptive practice, and slowly, the Protestant denominations all followed. But Catholics, Orthodox and Orthodox Jews have never changed. We continue to hold the ancient and wise insight that sex is intrinsically linked to child bearing, and that the link should never be broken and replaced by other intentions in isolation from that. To do so invites disaster, as we can plainly see.

It will be granted that living the Church teaching on Contraception is not easy. Yet some of the difficulty must also be traced to our seeming obsession with small families. We have argued on this blog at some length about economic realities and many have voiced strong opinions that more than 2 children is just not economically feasible. And yet others with larger families say they do fine. It would seem that a lot has to do with what we want and what our priorities are going to be. And while the arguments will surely continue, it is remains true to this author that the absolute necessity for only 1 or 2 children is  not an unassailable fact.

In the end however, Catholics are encouraged to look beyond merely their own family and see what contraception has done to us. Life is bigger than merely what is hard for me, or what I like or don’t like, think or don’t think. Contraception has been a bitter pill that the West has swallowed.

While our fight against the HHS ruling is essentially about religious liberty, Catholics and others must understand that we do not seek to religious freedom merely for some arcane doctrine of no importance, that Catholics or others should say “What’s the big deal?” Rather, opposition to contraception is an essential component in the Catholic teaching on sexuality by which we stand against grave forces that wreak havoc on our culture. We cannot pay for something we see as sinful and destructive.

51 Responses

  1. Wesley Kerfoot says:

    Hello, I’d like to respond to your first premise, if that’s okay. I noticed a logical fallacy. It’s relating to the paragraph here:

    “For some forty or more years after widespread acceptance of contraception many grave cultural consequences have set in, related to sexuality and mistaken notions of sex. Among the consequences are: widespread and open promiscuity, which has led to higher and higher levels of STDs, abortion, teenage pregnancy, single parent homes, divorce, and to a decline in marriage rates. Recall that advocates of contraceptives, beginning in the 1950s and into the 1960s made many promises of the “benefits” of contraceptives.”

    This argument is “post hoc ergo propter hoc”, i.e. “after this, therefore because of this,” and it is a logical fallacy. You cannot assume that two or more events are related simply because one event happened first (chronologically speaking). In order for it not to be a logical fallacy you would have to provide some sort of evidence that contraceptives directly cause these things (increased levels of sexual promiscuity, STDs, abortion, teen pregnancy, and single homes).

    It’s plausible that contraception could cause a higher rate of promiscuity, but the link between contraception and abortion isn’t very clear. The argument that if contraception fails, then abortion is the only choice left is an example of a “slippery slope argument” as well as a “false dichotomy” (i.e. the fallacy of only considering a few possibilities out of many possible ones) and is also a logical fallacy.

    You cannot use another post hoc ergo propter hoc argument (or any other fallacy) as evidence to support these correlations. The argument that because divorce rates are increasing, and contraception is also increasing, and thusly contraception causes divorce, is also post hoc.

    I’d also like to address number 7 on your list:

    Your argument is basically this: If contraception, then sex for non-procreation reasons, then loss in sacredness of sex which validates homosexuality therefore contraception is wrong. This argument is invalid. You don’t show how you got to your conclusion from your premise. The conclusion may or may not be true, and the premise (contraception causes a strong belief in sex for non pro-creative purposes) may or may not be true, but the reasoning is invalid.

    I’m not going to address your other points, but I do think some of them are plausible such as contraception not being useful for preventing diseases.

    • Non est post hoc propter hoc – as I say in the article, I realize that there are other things at works too. However I do stand by the main point that that contraception is a huge factor. You may want to think that contraception has little to do with abortion….but seems not. 85% of abortions are performed on single women. It is for many the contraception of last recourse….add to that the now “morning after pill” and tell me that contraception does not lead an abortion mentality. Finally – apply a little common sense too, you seem to over analyze and then miss some very obvious connections and also a temporal connection to the trouble. In the end you fall into an “all or nothing thinking” whereby if the relationship is not 100% you reject it almost entirely. Hence you replace post hoc propter hoc with all or nothing thinking, is this not another logical fallacy?

      • D506 says:

        You can stand by your point that it’s a ‘huge factor’, but you have not provided any more actual evidence than your own ‘feelings’ on it – which is pretty much worthless in this context. Your appeal to ‘common sense’ is just more of the same; it’s only common sense to you because you are seeing what you want and expect to see.

        In fact, you have not provided any evidence or cited a single source at all to support your claims.

        I started to go through your points one by one, but there’s little reason to bother. “You can’t reason a person out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into in the first place”. Suffice it to say, your article is the same out of touch, fingers in ears sort of response to change you just “don’t get” that the church has been giving for decades. It is exactly “a backward bunch of clerics in the Vatican opposing sex”.

        You may think of yourself as forward thinking and reasonable, but most of this article comes down to ‘things were better when Men could own Women’. You’ve simply redressed it because, 50 years too late, you’ve finally realized you’re yet again on the wrong side of a culture that is moving on just fine without you. But it’s transparent. You’ll probably write my comment off, and argue it away – but it won’t change the fact that your church is dying, and you’re the cause.

        • You seem to take this issue rather personally, not sure why your anger is pointed. In discussions try to avoid using terms like “worthless,” “out of touch” “backward” “men could own women” and suggesting that your opponent is not using reason or just doesn’t “get it”. My fingers aren’t in my ears. It doesn’t really help move the ball. (Also why are you writing under different aliases? Or are you?) For the record, the Catholic Church is growing world-wide, though I do admit that in the West we are “out of season” in secular times. But as for dying, if anything is dying it is Western culture (which I love) that is in very serious trouble. If it is moving on, as you say, I should say it is not moving in good directions overall. Low birth rates, fractured families and high and almost insurmountable debt along with political paralysis do not suggest to me we are moving in the right direction. But time will prove where wisdom lies.

          • Wesley Kerfoot says:

            The commenter above wasn’t me — anyway, thank you for the response. You’re correct that the “all or nothing” argument is also a fallacy, and I definitely agree with you that contraception has definitely _affected_ abortion (how could it not have an effect when they are so closely related?). My argument is basically that the affect is highly negligible, and that there isn’t much evidence to point to contraception as the main cause for increase in abortion, casual sex, etc…

            Also, you make a decent point on the relationship between single women and abortions (“85% of abortions are performed on single women.”). However that doesn’t necessarily mean that contraception was the cause. I would expect most abortions to be for single women regardless of any other fact. Why? The social stigma surrounding a married woman having an abortion is much higher, also you have to consider the pressure they would be under from their spouse or other family to have the baby. I doubt that the same level of social pressure exists for single women, which leads to higher abortion rates for single women. I think this is a better explanation than an “abortion mentality”, though I would be open to such a thing existing if there were some studies done on it that showed women think of abortion as a contraceptive. Are there?

    • c matt says:

      This argument is “post hoc ergo propter hoc”, i.e. “after this, therefore because of this,” and it is a logical fallacy. You cannot assume that two or more events are related simply because one event happened first (chronologically speaking)

      You are confusing two different methods of inquiry – one is logic in the strict sense. In this sense, just because B occurs after A does not prove A caused B. But it also does not “disprove” A caused B. And perhaps outside of quantum mechanics, A necessarily has to precede B in order for A to even be considered a cause. Calling something a logical fallacy only means one thing – it is not a logical necessity that such and such is the case. Ultimately, not very useful at determining the truth because it cannot even rule out that the “logical fallacy” is in fact not true.

      There is also another method of inquiry based upon observation – not just of data, but of proclivities over the ages, trends, etc. – this is generally referred to as experience. Saying it is a logical fallacy means very little in experiential analysis. The predictions made (and later occurring) do show strong evidence that the assumed cause was in fact the cause. The mistake you are making in analyzing the situation is you are looking back and calling it a coincidence, essentially. The proper way to analyze it is to look at the predictions made prior to the events, and who correctly predicted the outcomes (essentially, the scientific method – hypothesis, testing, and results matching the predicted hypothesis).

      • Yes, “experience” (a better word used by you), is what I mean here in the comment thread when I say “common sense.” Your word is better and less provocative.

      • Wesley Kerfoot says:

        “You are confusing two different methods of inquiry – one is logic in the strict sense. In this sense, just because B occurs after A does not prove A caused B. But it also does not “disprove”

        Correct, in order for it to disprove A we would need to say “B will happen if A happens” and then test to see if B happens repeatedly and observe at least one occurrence of B not happening. The problem is that we can’t repeatedly test to see if contraceptives cause abortion rates to increase, because it’s a historical hypothesis, and we can’t repeat it. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s complete bunk though, but I think you still need a lot of historical evidence in order to support it. In this case maybe some studies on women before and after contraceptives were widespread that showed a major shift in mindset towards treating abortion as the last resort of contraception.

        ” A caused B.” And perhaps outside of quantum mechanics, A necessarily has to precede B in order for A to even be considered a cause. ”

        Agreed.

        “Calling something a logical fallacy only means one thing – it is not a logical necessity that such and such is the case. Ultimately, not very useful at determining the truth because it cannot even rule out that the “logical fallacy” is in fact not true.”

        It’s only useful in pointing out flawed reasoning, so yes, it cannot come up with the truth (though I would argue that there is no such thing as unwavering truth, only degrees of confidence)

        “There is also another method of inquiry based upon observation – not just of data, but of proclivities over the ages, trends, etc. – this is generally referred to as experience. Saying it is a logical fallacy means very little in experiential analysis.”

        Isn’t experiential learning more a way of gaining skill in a particular area? Or am I misunderstanding you? If you mean to say that you can learn something through direct experience and inference, then I would call that inductive reasoning if it looks at events and comes up with assumptions based on events. Inductive reasoning itself is flawed unless there is a high number of repeated tests.

        “The predictions made (and later occurring) do show strong evidence that the assumed cause was in fact the cause.”

        The difference between this and a typical claim is that we’re looking at one specific event that has already happened, so we need a different type of evidence. Unfortunately historical claims cannot be tested in the same way as other types of claims, so we’re left with only general interpretations of events, and we take whichever interpretation that seems sound to us. You could make the argument that if that’s true then why do we put criminals in jail? I think there’s an important distinction, which has to do with narrow and general events in the past. Because of the generality of something like “contraceptives have caused a rise in abortion rates” it’s almost impossible to look for physical evidence of it, but if we were to look at something like “This person is guilty of the murder of this other person” then we could look for specific physical evidence (e.g. blood stains, the weapon used, and so on). However, _if_ there was some kind of record of women actively going through a major shift which resulted in this change in attitude towards abortion _then_ I would be on-board with your point of view.

        “The mistake you are making in analyzing the situation is you are looking back and calling it a coincidence, essentially. The proper way to analyze it is to look at the predictions made prior to the events, and who correctly predicted the outcomes (essentially, the scientific method – hypothesis, testing, and results matching the predicted hypothesis).”

        As I said, the problem is that most interpretations of the scientific method (I’m going with Karl Poppers) also involve repeatedly testing something in order to gain more confidence in it, because it’s impossible to prove something 100% true, and taking a single confirmation as proof of something being true is essentially using induction.

        All I’m asking for is some evidence other than statistics basically.

        • At some point discussions like this give rise to the old adage that Philosophy is the art of knowing more and more about less and less until you know everything about nothing. Parsing, straining and distinguishing has its place but it gets wearying after awhile. Skepticism is to insist on remaining doubtful in the face of reasonable evidence.

          • berniethomas says:

            Let me try to defend the good Monsignor.

            The fallacy of post hoc, propter hoc, means that just because something follows upon something else, it doesn’t mean that it was caused by it; for instance, just because an increase in crime follows upon an increase in joblessness doesn’t mean that joblessness causes crime. (Though, in my view, it is certainly a likely contributing factor in some cultures.)

            Since Hume, a lot of people don’t believe in causation at all, so the best anyone can do is prove correlation. I certainly believe Monsignor has done that.

            For those who do believe that there is such a phenomenon as causation, it is necessary to prove correlation first.
            Again, I believe Monsignor has done that.

            Once one has established correlation, one looks for something in the nature of the alleged causative agent that is linked to the resulting phenomenon, and tries to determine if that is sufficient to explain the phenomenon under questions.

            One sometimes does so by ruling out other possible causative factors.

            One may find that there are many contributing factors to any single phenomenon.

            For instance, if one finds out that the students who failed an exam, had not studied, one would begin to think that not studying had caused them to fail, though there could have been other contributing factors (perhaps the teacher did a bad job in presenting the material). If there were an equal number of students who passed the exam who had also not studied, one would begin to think that not studying was not the cause of failure or at least not the only cause. It could be that those who passed were simply more intelligent. We would need to test for such factors. But if it was largely those who did not study who failed and they were just as intelligent as those who did pass, we would naturally and probably rightly assume that it was largely the failure to study that caused the failure on the exam, because we know that studying leads to knowledge and exams generally test knowledge.

            The correlation between the increase in premarital sex, unwanted pregnancy, abortion and divorce with increase of the use and of contraception is extremely strong. The fact is that human beings have a strong sexual drive. A great deterrent for acting upon that drive is the prospect of the responsibility of a child. Those who are not prepared for a child and who believe their sexual acts may lead to a pregnancy can often muster up the self control to resist the sexual drive. If they have access to something (contraception/abortion) that will prevent the possibility of a child, they may decide to proceed in acting upon that desire. The causative factor is the strong sexual drive that many have, often deterred by the prospect of the responsibility of a child. When that prospect is seemingly decreased through access to contraception, more sexual activity that does not include responsible planning for a pregnancy will occur. That is a very logical path of thought. Aristotelian, in act. Establish the quia (the fact, the correlation) and then look for the propter hoc (the cause in the nature of things).

            Now there may be many contributing factors to the phenomena listed, such as a loss of sense of morality, or the bombardment of messages from the media that present sex as essential to happiness, or the increased availability of pornography. And I believe that all of them are contributing factors. But of course those may all be caused by the changes in attitudes prompted by the availability of contraception.

            It is too facile to reject the data that Monsignor has presented as simply establishing correlation, not causation. Indeed, the burden of proof is on others to find more likely causes for the increase of premarital sex, unwanted pregnancy, abortion and divorce, other than contraception. What might those causes be?

  2. Bender says:

    In discussing the Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandate that will attempt to force the Catholic Church to pay for contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization, I have discovered that many Catholics, while generally understanding why we object to paying for sterilization and abortifacients, are less than enthusiastic about our refusal to pay for contraceptives.
    ______________________

    Thankfully, following Bl. John Paul II, there are more and more people — including theologians, priests, religious, catechists, and laity — who are better versed in revelation regarding human sexuality and, thus, are better able to fulfill the mission of the Church to be a light to the world, at least to those who do not run from the light. But enough on that for now.

    Regarding the related issue of government mandating that individuals or groups pay for the benefits of some other persons or groups — the Bishops’ conference would be on much stronger ground on the contraceptive mandate if they had not essentially supported government doing this exact same kind of thing with the individual mandate to buy “insurance.”

    During the debate on ObamaCare, the position of the USCCB essentially was that some form of government-mandated or government-ensured healthcare coverage was a matter of fundamental social justice, that government could and should require employers to provide comprehensive healthcare insurance for their employees. During that debate, the USCCB essentially supported requiring people to pay for and subsidize any number of procedures or medications or services that they did not want or need.

    And the Administration agreed. In this vein, HHS has now defined comprensive healthcare coverage to include contraceptives. In short, the USCCB helped make this bed. As such, at least some of the public can be forgiven why they do not understand, and even refuse to understand, the arguments of the bishops now.

    Make no mistake, I’m glad that a large number of bishops are now seeing the light, although I doubt that even now the bureaucratic staff at the USCCB will concede that, during the ObamaCare debate, they were making deals with the devil. Even now, I wonder if we were not talking about contraceptives or abortion or related items, there would still be this same emphasis on the primacy of conscience and personal liberty?

    • Bender says:

      Let me be clear with what I’m saying here. It is not so much a lack of much sympathy for the USSCB, and it is not so much a case of a frustrated “I told you so” (everyone who paid any attention at all KNEW that this is EXACTLY what the Obama Administration would do — try to ram contraception and abortion and gay marriage and gay adoption, etc. down the throat of the Catholic Church), although both are part of it. Rather, the ultimate point with respect to any ObamaCare mandate is that contraceptive/abortion coverage or not, ANY mandate is morally problematic and violative of good conscience and the dignity of human liberty.

      The fact that we are all now demanded to subsidize the sex lives of other people only makes it worse. The fact that we are now demanded to do immoral acts — and to pay for us to do immoral acts — only makes it worse.

      Thankfully, we have many bishops who have been totally clear — “We cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law.”

      Rather than continue to be the tax collector for Caesar, the patron saint of the Archdiocese of Washington instead complied when Jesus said, “Follow me.” Rather than condemn himself by going along with a lie, the patron saint of Arlington was God’s servant first.

      Matthew and Thomas More are looking to Cardinal Wuerl and Bishop Loverde to stand by that “we will not.”

  3. Bender says:

    if sex is just about adults having pleasure and sharing intimate love, then . . .

    To be clear here, if sex is just about having pleasure, then it is NOT love, regardless of how intimate it is. Rather, sex-as-merely-pleasure is a utilitarian sexuality of use and exploitation, which is the antithesis of love.

    Sex and sexual pleasure, being made by God, are morally good things — but, as is the case with every other good made by God, they are morally good only to the extent that they remain consistent with love and the truth of their nature.

    Love — authentic love — is a gift of self, a giving of self without holding back some part of oneself, a gift made without imposing a wall of separation between the other, be that a barrier of rubber, chemicals, or mindset. Authentic love is also, by its nature, consistent with truth. And the truth is that sex is done with one’s reproductive organs; we do not have sex with our elbows or ears. Every sex act by a male involves the transmission of procreative genetic material. If the sex is with a woman, his procreative genetic material is injected into her reproductive tract, where it might join together with her procreative genetic material, resulting in a new human life. If the “sex” is with another male, regardless of where it occurs, one man’s genetic material is NEVER going to join with that of another man’s to result in a child.

    The latter case of same-sex “relations” is then, by its very nature, a lie. It is a fraud. It is wholly contrary to the truth of the biology of sex. And every case of male-female sex where the possibility of procreative joinder is intentionally frustrated is likewise a lie and contrary to the truth of the act. Being a lie and contrary to the truth, such sex cannot be, by its nature, an act of authentic love, regardless of what the “feelings” of the persons involved.

    • richtea says:

      Things between men and women may not be as straightforward as you suggest. For some reason, you seem to overlook the position of women past their reproductive age who, nevertheless, still engage in full, physical relationships with their husbands, while procreation certainly would not be the expected outcome. (OK, do not come back at me with Genesis 18:12; that surely was a unique intervention.) Sex is not easily sorted out – it may have been implicitly granted by God, but it was certainly released by the Snake, and we will always struggle within that framework. Making the matter tidy is beyond us.

      • Released by a Snake? A strange view indeed.

      • Bender says:

        Implicitly granted by God?

        God made the first humans.
        God wants us to join with Him in the creation of new humans.
        Sex was made by God.
        Sex is necessary for the perpetuation of the species.
        Sexual pleasure was made by God to encourage having sex.
        God is good.
        Everything made by God is good to the extent that it is consistent with God’s design, and less than good to the extent that it is inconsistent with God’s design and will.
        Sex and sexual pleasure are good to the extent that they are consistent with God’s design, and less than good to the extent that they are inconsistent with God’s design and will.

        The “serpent” did not “release” sex, rather, as the father of lies, he did what he does with other good things that God has made — he twists and distorts and corrodes and misleads.

  4. Bender says:

    while the Church does teach that marital sex does have a unitive dimension, it is not to be separated from its link to the procreative dimension

    This is where much of the confusion comes in. As expressed this way, as it often is, the connection between sex and the unitive-procreative dimensions skips a step. And what a crucial step it is. The step that is skipped is “love.” Love, which is our fundamental vocation; love, which is the primary and ultimate Commandment before all others.

    It is not sex per se that is unitive and procreative — it is the fullness of love that is unitive and procreative. To understand this, we need go no further than the Trinity, in whose image we are made. There is nothing and no one more unitive and more procreative than the Triune God, who is Love itself. Or consider the Virgin Bridegroom and His Virgin Bride, the Church, two become one to produce countless children. Amongst non-divine humans, the most unitive and procreative person ever in the history of the world was Mary — a Virgin and a Mother.

    Before it is about sex and contraception, before it is about natural law (whether ontological nature or biological nature), Humanae Vitae is about human love:
    9. This love is above all fully human, a compound of sense and spirit. It is not, then, merely a question of natural instinct or emotional drive. . . . It is a love which is total—that very special form of personal friendship in which husband and wife generously share everything, allowing no unreasonable exceptions and not thinking solely of their own convenience. . . . Finally, this love is fecund. . . . 12. if each of these essential qualities, the unitive and the procreative, is preserved, the use of marriage fully retains its sense of true mutual love and its ordination to the supreme responsibility of parenthood to which man is called. . . . 13. an act of mutual love which impairs the capacity to transmit life which God the Creator, through specific laws, has built into it, frustrates His design.

    In a Wednesday Audience after the publication of HV, Pope Paul explained his encyclical:
    It is not merely the declaration of a negative moral law that excludes every action aimed at rendering procreation impossible (n. 14), but it is above all the positive presentation of conjugal morality concerning its mission of love and fecundity “in the light of an integral vision of man and of his vocation, not only his natural and earthly, but also his supernatural and eternal vocation” . . . We sought to interpret the Divine law that flows from the very nature of genuine human love, from the essential structure of married life, from the personal dignity of husband and wife, from their mission of service to life, as well as from the sanctity of Christian marriage. . . . Lastly We hoped that Christian husbands and wives would understand that Our decision, however severe and arduous it may seem, is the interpreter of the genuineness of their love, called to be transformed by the imitation of the love of Christ for his mystical spouse, the Church.

    Again and again Pope Paul speaks of LOVE. Not “married love” as a euphemism for “sex,” but love qua love, which is our supernatural and eternal vocation, being made in the likeness and image of He who is Love. Humanae Vitae is not an encyclical primarily about contraception, it is an encyclical primarily about love — love as applied to human sexuality and contraception.

    As Pope Paul teaches, it is LOVE to which married couples and unmarried couples and each of us as individuals are called — a love which brings communion with others (unitive) and is fruitful (procreative). And it is love that we are called to in our sexuality. To be moral, to be consistent with the truth of our being, sex should be and must be a manifestation of love — sex must be the outward visible sign of the invisible reality of the fullness of transcendent love. It must be truly and actually “making love,” and not simply using the words “making love” as mere slang for “having sex.”

    If sex is merely an act of desire or use or play, it is not a manifestation of love, it is not an act of love. If there is a withholding of self in sex, if there is a withholding of one’s fertility, rather than a complete gift of self, it is not an act of the fullness of love. Contraception, whether physical or mental, is wrong because it is a barrier to love. Contraception is an objectification of the human person, not an act of love. Because it is a barrier to love, it prevents communion of persons and is stagnant. It is contrary to the persons that we were made to be.

    • Bender says:

      One more, then I’m done hogging the combox –

      The truth expressed in Humanae Vitae does not change; on the contrary, precisely in the light of the new scientific discoveries, its teaching becomes more timely and elicits reflection on the intrinsic value it possesses. The key word to enter coherently into its content remains “love”.
      Address of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the International Congress Commemorating the 40th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae, The Pontifical Lateran University, May 10, 2008

      It was not by chance that Jesus, in speaking of human love, alluded to what God created at the beginning of the Creation (cf. Mt 19: 4-6). His teaching refers to a free act with which the Creator not only meant to express the riches of his love which is open, giving itself to all, but he also wanted to impress upon it a paradigm in accordance with which humanity’s action must be declined. In the fruitfulness of conjugal love, the man and the woman share in the Father’s creative act and make it clear that at the origin of their spousal life they pronounce a genuine “yes” which is truly lived in reciprocity, remaining ever open to life. . . . No mechanical technique can substitute the act of love that husband and wife exchange as the sign of a greater mystery which (as protagonists and sharers in creation) sees them playing the lead and sharing in creation.

      • Bender, I think all your comments provide helpful distinctions and clarifications and as such provide a good addition to the article. As you may understand, I cannot, in the main body of an article provide all these since the article is already too long. But as we have all noted before, Blogs are meant to start discussions, not end them. So again I appreciate your additions and clarifications.

  5. VistaNow says:

    It seems like the tree in the middle of the garden is seeking more and more people to join them, …sex and money and the serpent is hovering all over it – the Lord Jesus spoke very clear about these human expression. Outside the Church’s interpretation they are disordered. As you Monsignor pointed out in your blog they erode human dignity

    • Contraception is surely a strongly tempting and its power to tempt is tied directly to many issues in our culture related as you say to money, power and I would add, lifestyle and more worldly priorities. In a sense the cry that we cannot afford our children is a sign of how expensive our lifestyle is more than how expensive our children are.

      • richtea says:

        Come to think of it, without contraception we might not be living in the Bubble of Prosperity, with all its material perishables. Sooner or later, the price will have to be paid, and it cannot be but steep.

  6. Steve C says:

    I hope the faithful start acting like Catholics & start obeying Church teachings. ALL Church teachings. Nancy Pelosi, a so called Catholic, is standing with the ones that disobey Church teachings. To her, I guess, if 98% disagree with the law of gravity then the law of gravity is changed to their beliefs? People should know truth is truth & not up for a vote. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXl2Y51c8G8 We are behind the Bishops & the priests in this I hope none back down & to the faithful… time to join the fight. As Patrick Henry said to the Virginia assembly when they wanted to just write letters & didn’t think England was ready to attack them “We are that enemy!”

    • Yes, our own disunity in the Church has surely led to us being in a very weakened state.

      • Bender says:

        Those who relish in this disunity are helping to weaken the Church further. Make no mistake, there are more than a few anti-Catholic Catholics whose primary goal in life seems to be to distort the truth of Catholic teachings and to drive people away from the Church.

        And although there are some “progressive Catholics” who are today voicing outrage and opposition, do not be surprised if, come November, they set aside their objections and once again choose their politics over their faith.

          • Steve C says:

            Can we start this up for those who oppose the Church that claim to be with us http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRt2cKvJLlE

          • Notgiven says:

            Yikes!

            • Bender says:

              I don’t know that issuing excommunications or indictions will accomplish anything in the end.

              But I do think it time for each bishop — Cardinal Wuerl especially — to start emulating those heroes against persecution in the past, like the Lion of Münster (Germany), Bl. Bishop Clemens August von Galen, with forceful and loud denuciations against those government authorities — especially those government authorities who are Catholic — who would now persecute the Church.

              Rather than his usual calm and genial demeanor, it is time for Cardinal Wuerl to find his voice, giving homilies at St. Matthew’s Cathedral that bellow and roar
              “Men must obey God more than men.” Through a conscience formed by faith God speaks to each one of us. Obey always without any doubt the voice of conscience. . . . And so I say once again: become hard, remain firm, remain steadfast! Like the anvil under the blows of the hammer! It may be that obedience to our God and faithfulness to our conscience may cost me or any of you life, freedom or home. But: “Better to die than to sin!“ May the grace of God, without which we can do nothing, grant this unshakeable firmness to you and to me and keep us in it!
              (from the sermon of Bishop von Galen, 20 July 1941)

  7. R in Indiana says:

    Thank you for posting the quotes from Humanae Vitae! I’m continually amazed at the wisdom that comes from our popes. I realize that they are just men, but they are men who have dedicated their lives to the church and who have studied and taught Theology, as well as many other relevant subjects. Our culture that fixates on youth would like to dismiss these men who seem to be removed from our daily world. However, they are men who do not rush to judgment and who study situations not swayed by popular opinion–perhaps that has not always been the case. But we have been blessed to have these men as our leaders. I read some of Blessed JPII’s writings for a Theology class, and I was struck by his underlying faith in the goodness of humanity. I think we would all do better to listen to the wisdom of the Pope. Unfortunately, most of us must make our own mistakes to learn rather than learning from the wisdom of others. In my middle age, it is easy for me to agree with the church’s teaching, but I struggle with how I will convey this teaching to my children, and how they will struggle to live their faith in a world that sees the church’s view as counter-cultural and possibly even dangerous. I prayed recently that my descendents would always be Christian, and as I prayed, I realized that I didn’t know what I was asking. I do not know the future, and that as Catholics or Christians, my children may very well face persecution.

  8. Daniel says:

    First, I commend you for your effort to explain this issue clearly. It is certainly one which gets muddied by the media, and sometimes by the bishops themselves. I agree with the overall religious freedom aspect of the issue but I would like to raise one distinction though:
    I think there’s a big jump from “Contraception …emphasizes sex as pleasure for its own sake, and simply for the bonding of the adults involved” to “For if sex is just for pleasure, and not intrinsically related to having children, why should it be thought of as so sacred or serious”.
    The first statement includes the phrase “[simply] for the bonding of the adults involved”. Parenthetically, it sounds diminutive to use the term “simply” when referring to something as profound as the unitive aspect of marriage–I don’t think true bonding is simple. The way you have phrased it (in an attempt to emphasize the importance of procreation) might suggest procreation as the only truly Divine aspect and makes unity seem like a dependent sub-category. Any reference to “bonding” is removed from the second statement as if to say “without procreation you have nothing sacred left in the act”. We certainly wouldn’t promote sex just for procreation as a holy thing.
    Bender makes the same jump in his lengthy argument: “If sex is merely an act of desire or use or play, it is not a manifestation of love, it is not an act of love.”
    It is easy to condemn the idea of reducing sex only to pleasure, but I think it would be a straw man argument to present this as the situation within the Church, as I don’t think any Catholic would say that. The challenge among Catholic laity comes when couples who are sacramentally married strive to be loving and fruitful but see fecundity as a larger part of their relationship, rather than as a natural law necessity of every genital act.
    It sounds like an “all or nothing” argument: If there’s no immediate openness to procreation there’s nothing. My ultimate point here is not to condemn what you have said, but to point out a significant aspect of the discussion which wasn’t addressed—Catholic couples who may use contraception but who don’t “simply” bond or reduce sex to mere pleasure, but who struggle towards the fullness of love which we all seek.

    • Yeah the argument is cultural more than ad intra. However, even among largely faithful Catholics, the insistence on getting to determine the meaning of even an individual act is to open to the cultural malaise wherein we can simply determine the meaning as we please. The argument isn’t against love or pleasure, it is against those who would intentionally separate the unitive and the procreative. This is to invite trouble wherein sexuality becomes detatched from pro-creation (except when we please) and the train goes off the rails.

  9. Jan says:

    Gosh Monsignor, you make contraception sound like a baad thing! :)

    Regarding the “social justice” comment – yes indeed the bishops made that bed and then jumped right in. When the state of an individual’s soul is less important than whether or not they have free access to worldly desires, are in the country illegally, or don’t make as much money as some, that’s a problem.

    The fact that ANY pro-abortion politician has been elected in this country since Roe v Wade took effect (much less, those who were pro-The Pill) is astounding. In essence, the bodies and souls of millions of people were sold for food stamps or free health care, or any number of other envy-induced ‘rights’.

    We hear very little in my parish or diocese about spirituality or the injustice of abortion – except for token mentions – or even how contraceptive use is not only not allowed, but wrong.

    I can only speak for myself, but I’m getting kind of sick of hearing that there is too great of wealth disparity in this country, from the pulpit, and how Jesus doesn’t like that. What I think Jesus probably did like was when families took care of each other first, then their neighbors, and then the world, as their means permitted.

    • True enough. The family is the first social action committee in any parish especially when we consider the extended family.

    • Daniel says:

      Jan,
      Sarcasm clouds your point. Healthcare is not a “worldly desire”, and it’s generally not envy-induced. Your strong feelings about abortion shouldn’t detract from other legitimate concerns of the Church [like the pursuit of justice]. Again, your feelings about the importance of family are hard to argue with, but claiming Jesus didn’t care about poverty would be putting your words in His mouth.

      • Jan says:

        Excuse me? Sarcasm? And where did I say Jesus didn’t care about poverty?

        My point is that the government has no business trying to coerce charity from ANYONE. People seem to forget that when the government mandates “giving” to someone, be it time or talent, it is THEFT. It reduces people to slaves.

        And no – health care is not a right. Yes, medicine has been distorted by insurance and all that, and that is a whole different story, but no one has the right to force a physician to treat for free, or worse, to lose money himself. Do you see GM being forced to give away cars, or GE to give away their stupid light bulbs?

        • Notgiven says:

          Excellent points, Jan…and exactly what Catholic Social Doctrine is all about. We have to feel that love and that regard for the poor in our hearts and we have to give of our own free will. Otherwise, it is indeed what you said it is. It is theft.

          • Bender says:

            Nonsense.

            Don’t you remember in the Gospel where Jesus looks at the coin and says, “Give unto Caesar so that he can help the poor,” or where He says, “When I was hungry, you gave money to the government,” or where He tells the parable of the Good Samaritan, who sees the wounded man in the ditch and chases down the priest and the Levite, takes their money, and gives it to the innkeeper?

            Of course, there is also the part where Jesus goes up to the tax collector and says, “Keep up the good work Matthew.” Then, turning to the Apostles, He says, “Stop following me and be more like him. He’s the one who is really doing social justice.”

            Don’t you understand that because it is so large and powerful, Omnipotent Government is the best way to help those in need, that our preferential option for the poor must be a preferential option for government assistance?

            And that way, when Goverment has usurped acts of individual caritas and displaced the Church, since it is in control, we can have the added benefit of Government calling the shots and demanding that individuals and the Church do whatever the hell Government tells it to do, including subsidizing the “private” sex lives of other people and buying their contraception and paying to kill their children?

            • Daniel says:

              Bender,
              Subsidiarity is a genuine concern, but extremist, fear-based rhetoric just digs sides in and doesn’t advance dialogue (or the Kingdom).

  10. Maureen says:

    Msgr. Pope, Thank you for writing with such clarity on these issues. You prove that wisdom is best expressed in a non polemical style. You are in my prayers, Msgr! And take heart, the laity is beginning to respomd to the beauty of Catholic teaching.

  11. Theresa says:

    Thanks for bringing this point to light and explaining why it is not acceptable for us and for anyone of a sound ethic. As Catholics when we talk about these matters, we are not talking out our feelings. The union of a man and woman is sacred, we are called to teach our young ones this very truth. We must notice that sex is not merely an act of intimacy or expression of love, it is the act of procreation. Disorder in understanding this fact makes it an act for obtaining pleasure. We do not even have to discuss contraception here because its about the virtue. Why not educate youth to have strong virtues, for example what is abstinence and what is temperance. When one gives in to passions, he has to face undesired results, then he tries to invent ways to avoid these results and gets in to contradiction with his own spirit and life and then gets into contradiction with the church, stops going to mass and distances himself from the sacraments.

    It is not just the West that is suffering from such a problem of morality and human dignity but also the East. I recently came across a news report on BBC that the Indian government is awarding a Tata Nano car to men and women if they would get sterilized. Population control for a better economy is a WRONG NOTION!

  12. Heather L says:

    I didn’t look through all of the replies to see if it was mentioned (sorry if I’m duplicating), but the Lambeth Conference happened in 1930 (not 1940). Oddly enough I was just reading the document last night exactly because of all of these things popping up. Thank you for sharing your thoughts…this is so important and yet so misunderstood. FYI, my family is friends with your brother’s family out here (my husband and J went to college together briefly), so my husband and I keep a good eye on what you have to say (plus, we really enjoy your blog). Thank you for your ministry.

  13. [...] the dots between Catholic faith and culture theLightisON.org |  Archdiocese Website « Understanding Oppostion to the HHS Mandate (Part 1): Why the Church Won’t Pay for Cont… Feb07 To What Political Party Does the Catholic Church Belong? By: Msgr. Charles [...]

  14. Baxter says:

    @Jan “health care is not a right. ” i hope you realize denying someone health care is basically murder. im ashamed to live on the same planet as you.

    • Jan says:

      Is free food a right? Is free gasoline a right? Is a free Mercedes a right? Is free legal representation a right? Is free entertainment a right? Is free plumbing a right? How about free garbage pickup?

      ANYONE can walk into ANY hospital in this damned country and receive treatment. FREE. I never said ANYONE should be denied health care. I said physicians should not be forced to treat anyone at their own personal expense. And now, because of bleeding hearts like you – anyone can walk into an emergency room and get a freakin’ free abortion, too!

      What do you do for a living, buddy? Maybe I’ll just demand that you give YOUR services for free. Or petition the government to force you to.

      As for living on the same planet with me, I guess you could always leave.

  15. Mary W says:

    So what happens to people who step out in faith and reject the contraceptive culture? I can tell you because I did. I married a like minded fellow 33 years ago and we decided to start our married life living as the church teaches and to see what would happen. In the beginning I will admit it did kind of feel like we were stepping off a cliff; everyone said we were crazy and when the babies came one right after the other Oh My goodness people just didn’t even know what to say anymore! We trusted that God would help us navigate our way and He did! Although we have had times of great sorrow and difficulties we have shared them together and shared them with God. Mostly we have had great joy, five beautiful children, and a home that was a welcoming refuge to many. After all those years I love my husband more than ever and I know that he truly loves me. Love is expansive and God has blessed us to be able to give back to those who are sick, lonely and unloved, and some broken by the consequences of a conctraceptive culture. Thank you God for giving us the courage to live the life you planned for us.

  16. Peter Wolczuk says:

    Reminds me of when I said that “gloves seem to be coming off all over the place” at http://whosoeverdesires.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/occupy-my-heart-continued/#comments.
    The medical/pharmaceutical system seems to have grown into its own power entity which is mostly well out of sight but, the little we see is portrayed as benevolent but, what about the parts we don’t see? Are they able to exert massive influence on elected representatives to feed their profit motive by imposing further purchase and distribution? Are they now pushing their influence toward groups that have a greater faith in God than in them?
    I don’t know but I saw an article about a new aid to help cancer treatment in a science blog that I participate in and posted a comment that was removed about three or four days later. In that blog all comments are automatically posted but, offensive ones tend to be removed pretty quickly. I didn’t save a copy of my post but I can give this description;
    First I complimented the researchers for using physics principles to contribute to medical science which is mainly biological (which they had done) then I said that I would try to look at a subject from the opposite end on the assumed immunity to cancer that animals which could regenerate lost limbs apparently had. I then said that maybe those animals weren’t so much immune but, rather, were just not developed to the point where they could contract cancer – whether it was a lesser creation or earlier evolution or whatever. (Trying to be open minded here)
    Then I explained that one common aspect of cancer was a slight injury repeated many times and speculated that, while the regeneration of major tissue (like an entire leg instead of just some skin over a little cut like human bodies do) seems unaccessable because we’re too complex a life form, maybe a small injury often repeated could lead to a sort of frustration which may cause the body to trigger (in desparation) the dormant regeneration in us – kinda like if our dormant appendix becomes active somehow it becomes a health problem.
    Anyhow, I carried on, if the brain has a dormant section for major tissue regeneration that becomes active in such a case – could medical science maybe find a way to shut it down or deaden and remove those few brain cells that we never use anymore which may result in the cancerous growth stopping and those cells being flushed out of the body? I also mentioned that I’d been trying to communicate this to medical science for over 30 years.
    I admit that my idea was pretty speculative but, I’ve posted a lot of stuff there that’s even more speculative and it remains; possibly for its potentially inspirational value.
    I’d sure like to know what was so offensive that it’s been removed.

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