The “Fruits” of Contraception

In our culture’s current self-examination on sexual harassment and sexual abuse, we would also do well to ponder how the “contraceptive mentality” has contributed to the many sexually related problems of the day. This view insists that there is no necessary connection between sex and having children; it separates what God has joined. This has led to a whirlwind of confusion about the nature and purpose of sexual intimacy as well as about marriage and family. Many treat sex lightly and frivolously; they falsely think that sex can be without consequences. As we have seen played out in the recent news, many men no longer see women as wives, mothers, and persons to be respected, but as sexual objects to be exploited.

Two generations have 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 more scoffing (even from Catholics) than our teaching against artificial contraception: 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:

“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But time will prove where wisdom lies (Matt 11:16-18).

Indeed, times does prove where wisdom lies. Some fifty years after acceptance of contraception set in, how are we doing? Perhaps it is best to review some of the “promises” that advocates of contraception made and then review the prophecies of Pope Paul VI. Then let’s review the record and note the “fruits” of contraception.

The Promises of the Contraception Advocates:

  • Happier marriages and a lower divorce rates, because couples will be able to have all the sex they wanted without the “fear” of pregnancy.
  • Lower abortion rates because there will be far fewer “unwanted” children.
  • Greater dignity for women because they will no longer be “bound” by their reproductive system.
  • A more recent promise: reduction in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and AIDS.

The concerns and predictions of Pope Paul VI (in Humanae Vitae):

  1. Consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity (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 who had the wisdom to see? Was it the world or the Church? Let’s consider some of the data:

  1. The divorce rate did not decline; it skyrocketed. Divorce rates soared through the 1970s and beyond until nearly 50 percent of marriages were failing. In recent years the divorce rate has dropped slightly, but this may be due more to the fact that far fewer people get married in the first place, preferring instead to cohabitate and engage in a kind of serial monogamy, drifting from one relationship to the next. The overall divorce rate currently hovers in the low 40 percent range. Advocates of contraception today claim that divorce is a complicated matter, which is certainly true, but they cannot have it both ways: at first claiming that contraception will be a “simple” fix to make marriages happier and then, when they are proved so horrifyingly wrong, claiming that divorce is “complicated.” Pope Paul VI, on the other hand, predicted rough sailing for marriage with the advent of contraception; it looks as if he was right.
  2. Abortion rates did not decline; they skyrocketed as well. Within a few years, the pressure to make abortion more available led to its “legalization” in 1973. It has been well argued that far from decreasing the abortion rate, contraception actually increased it. Because contraception routinely fails, abortion has become the contraception of last resort. Further, just as the Pope predicted, sexual immorality has become widespread; this also has led to higher rates of abortion. It is hard to compare promiscuity rates between periods because people don’t tend to tell the truth 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’s and the Church’s foresight.
  3. Women’s dignity is a difficult thing to measure, and different people have different yardsticks by which to measure it. Women do have greater career choices today, but is that the true source of a person’s dignity? Dignity certainly involves more than one’s economic and utilitarian capacity. Sadly, motherhood has taken a back seat in popular culture. And, as the Pope predicted, women have been hypersexualized as well. Their dignity as wives and mothers has been set aside in favor of the sexual pleasure they offer to men. 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 that 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 they must support and raise alone. And as they get older and “less attractive” to men, they are often alone. I am not sure that this is dignity. Have women really benefited under this new morality, which contraception helped to usher in? I think the Pope wins this point as well.
  4. As for preventing/reducing STDs and AIDS: again, big failure. STDs were not prevented, nor did they decrease. Infection rates skyrocketed through the 1970s and 1980s. AIDS, which appeared on the scene in the 1980s continues to show terribly high rates. Where is the promised deliverance? It seems that contraceptives do not prevent anything. Rather, they encourage the spread of these diseases by encouraging the bad behavior that causes them. Here, too, it looks as if the Church was right and the world was wrong.
  5. Add to this list of effects the high rate of teenage pregnancy, the devastation experienced by single parent families, and even increasing poverty. The link to poverty may seem a stretch, but the bottom line is that single motherhood is the chief cause of poverty in this country. Contraception encourages promiscuity. Promiscuity often leads to pregnancy at a young age. Youthful pregnancy often leads to single motherhood (absent fathers). Single motherhood often leads to welfare dependence and poverty. In our inner cities today, over 80 percent of homes are headed by single mothers. It is the single best predictor of poverty.
  6. Declining birth rates, fueled by contraception, are devastating cultures. Europe as we have known it is simply going out of existence. (I have written on that before here: Contraception is Cultural Suicide!). Europe’s future is as a Muslim continent; Muslims typically have much larger families. Likewise, here in the United State, the birth rate in white and African-American communities is below replacement level. Thankfully, our immigrants are largely Christian and share our American vision. For the Church, the declining birthrates are resulting in the closing of parishes and schools, and a reduction in vocations to the priesthood and religious life. We cannot sustain what we have on a population that is no longer replacing itself. Immigration has insulated the Church from this to some extent, but the decline in Mass attendance has eclipsed the growth from immigration and we are starting to shut down a lot of our operations.

Conclusion: Time will prove where wisdom lies. What have we learned over these decades of contraception? First, we have learned that it is a huge failure in meeting its promises; it has backfired, making things worse rather than better. Marriage, families, and children have all taken a huge hit. Bad behavior has been encouraged and all the bad consequences that flow from it are flourishing. Most people seem largely uninterested in this data. Hearts have become numb and minds have gone to sleep. I hope that you will consider this information thoughtfully and share it with others. Time has proven where wisdom lies. It is time to admit the obvious.

16 Replies to “The “Fruits” of Contraception”

  1. Thank you, Msgr Pope. The post speaks volumes as to the problems contraception has caused. We think we are better in the control room and many think God wants us in the control room; foolish children of God. All depends upon God, all that is good comes from Him, we just need to be faithful and work as if all depends on us, knowing we can depend on Him. He has the full blueprint.

    As a married woman, when my time comes to stand before God, He is going to be interested in how well I lived my Vocation of Marriage while striving to walk in His Kingdom here on earth. He’ll tell me if I worked hard to bring my husband and children into His Presence. I doubt there will be any interest in how far I climbed the corporate ladder.

    We really need to get back to being children of God and sitting at Our Father’s feet and listening to His Word.

    Many thanks.

  2. “Women’s dignity is a difficult thing to measure, and different people have different yardsticks by which to measure it.”

    There’s only one measurement: human nature. It’s human to produce children – we’re sexually reproducing organisms – and it’s human to have natural contraception – women have ovulation.

    Ovulation and human reproduction are facts.

    1. Nick,

      I think that it’s safe to say that there are a lot of good, thinking, Catholic women that would see that their dignity is comprised from a lot more than than ovulation and reproduction.

  3. Thank you…I wish that this had been written 20 years ago and given out at every Catholic Church…our churches are closing…there are no children.

    1. I agree. There are also fewer priests to shepherd us, because there are fewer children & families in church.

  4. Thank you for this article. I believe the silence of the Church and pro life movement on contraception is a huge weakness of both. I am putting the names of all the larger Churches in my area into a hat, drawing them and standing with a huge sign between services “Abortifacient Contraception kills children and Cultures and Churches; free resources. Please come talk” Abortion is just the low hanging fruit. Contraception is in the root.

    1. Hi Kevin,
      Here in our very large diocese, contraception is included along with assisted suicide under the banner of pro-life. Pro-life coordinators are instructed to include all three in our meetings. We also hosted a speaker on the subject and every family in our parish has received a pamphlet on the Church’s teaching. I think that it’s always best to not paint with a broad brush. Part, but not all, of the problem is that many Catholic’s simply don’t want to hear it. Also, please be reminded that the “pro-life movement” isn’t simply a Catholic movement as there are other Christian Faith’s involved that don’t teach against the use of contraception. Can the call from the pulpit be better? Yes. Could we in the pro-life movement use more help from The majority parishioners that don’t seem to have the time to give to the cause? Absolutely!

  5. “If human life didn’t begin until implantation or thereafter, then concern about hormonal contraception would indeed be sidetracking us from real abortions. But the truth is this—the difference between killing a 7-day-old “zygote” and 7-week-old “fetus” is exactly the same as between killing a child 7 days after birth and killing a child 7 weeks after birth. There simply is no difference. Six-day-old children are just as real as six-year-old children, and chemical abortions are just as real as surgical abortions, just as deserving of our concern and action. “Anyone then, who knows the good and does not do it, sins.” James 4:17
    “Are we consistently pro life or only selectively pro life? Do we oppose later abortions while not really caring about the earliest ones? Is the only difference between us and those we call “Pro-abortion” that they are willing to embrace the killing of bigger and older children while we are willing to embrace the killing of only smaller and younger children? Are we moral relativists and gradualists different only in degree but not in kind with those we call abortionists?” Randy Alcorn. From his book “Does the Pill cause Abortions”

  6. I’m sorry…. are you guys serious with this article? There is absolutely no facts to back up any of these points. Literally every one of these points is completely false. If you’re moronic enough to think that birth control and abortion rates rise together then you should probably seek some better sources of education. It is a proven statistic that greater access to birth control and abortion rates are NEGATIVELY correlated. As for women’s dignity……. honey. If you actually think women who have the control over there bodies to make their own life choices, help further their careers, their relationships, their own self have less dignity because they are on birth control than you are absolutely delusional.

    Also, newsflash the Earth’s population is actually growing at ASTOUNDING rates, regardless of birth control use. Have any of you morons ever thought that maybe, just possibly, Mass attendance is dropping due to complete corruption in the Catholic Church? Not sure if you’ve heard about the astounding number of sexual predators who call themselves priests, but it’s actually super concerning to the culture of the Catholic Church as a whole… Check out “The Keepers” and maybe you’ll learn a thing

    As a former Catholic, I left the church because of hypocritical people like you. Do all you want to preach how good you are, while you sit in your misogynistic throne of lives.

    1. I’m sorry too, Elle. Sorry that you failed to see the facts laid out in this article or refuse to believe any of them. As for leaving the Catholic Church because of the priest scandal perhaps you could keep in mind, as I try to do, these facts…Jesus, Himself, said in the Bible that the Church would suffer greatly in the last days and Satan would infiltrate it and cause strife. Also, I follow the Catholic Faith, not the priests. And if a priest should fall, that does not negate the Faith Jesus established with the first pope. Of course it saddens me to see these things happen so that is why our Blessed Mother told us, at Fatima, to pray for Her priests who She calls Her sons. They are human, they need our prayers. It is no different than a Protestant minister committing adultery with a church member. My last point…you sound young, so perhaps you don’t know how men treated women 40 years ago. I remember them taking care not to curse in front of girls, not expecting them to sleep with them and never on the first date! Perhaps there was a little “fooling” around but usually they were engaged or talking marriage by then. If a girl did get pregnant most guys would want to marry her and not toss her some money to “get rid of it”. I look at young women “dating” now-a-days and I see sadness, uncertainty and turmoil in their relationships. And truly, Elle, all the Catholics you knew were hypocrites? They can be found in any faith organization. Keep this in mind…Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.

      1. If the Catholic Church is full of hypocrites, then what good does the Catholic faith do?

        You call the Catholic Church a hospital for sinners. But if people who go to a hospital don’t get any better any faster than those who don’t, then what is the point of the hospital?

    2. Dear Elle, So you left the True Church because of hypocrites,and I suppose you
      joined A church free of hypocrites.Get real. All of us are hypocrites to some
      degree. You people who leave the Church because of some sinful members fail to take into account the holy,sincere and saintly members that have graced our church for 2000 years.Forget the hypocrites and think of St.Frances of Assisi,
      Mother Teresa of Calcutta,The Cure of Ars, St.Thomas of Aquinas, and I can go
      on and on. Remember,Jesus had sinners(and hypocrites)among the apostles.I urge
      you to come back to the TRUE CHURCH and forget the nonsense of leaving because
      of hypocrisy which we all exhibit at times.

    3. Elle,
      You are at a Catholic site, reading about Catholic teaching on contraception. I find it highly unlikely you believe you will change solid Catholics in their deep understanding of theology of the body. I also find it highly unlikely you think the baseless arguments you half heartedly put forth would convince even nominal Catholics to change their quest for understanding God as it relates to our bodies. Which leaves me with a question only you need to answer for you. Why are you really reading this?

      Come home Elle, before it’s too late.

    4. “It is a proven statistic that greater access to birth control and abortion rates are NEGATIVELY correlated.”

      Primarily because communist and formerly communist countries throw off the statistics. Abortion was free and contraception difficult to obtain, leading to a high abortion rate.

      Beyond that, the correlation breaks down. The UK has free contraception and one of the highest abortion rates in Western Europe. Japan has relatively low contraception use, but a low abortion rate.

  7. “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” (Matt 7:13-14)

  8. In refusing to preach Humanae Vitae – Pulpit’s have been muted, not only in all things related to sexual morality darkening the culture, but in anything controversial and anything out of season. It’s become a habit.

    Also a habit, Bishops no longer act as shepherds, and as teachers, more managers keeping all, including dissenters in play and keeping things lukewarm as the standard. A terrible erosion has taken place, a creeping stillness, a death of truth.

Comments are closed.