By Jenny Uebbing -
Yesterday we began with a little overview of the historical background on the practice of contraception and how for 1,900+ years, Christianity uniformly condemned the practice. Today we’re going to delve into the why behind it: why when the rest of the world has heralded the Pill as a technological innovation on par with electricity and the internal combustion engine (seriously, read some of the UN’s documents on women’s rights) Rome has stubbornly refused to capitulate on the matter.
And it’s not because the Church is anti woman. It is, in fact, because She holds women in such high regard and is so intimately concerned with the dignity of women – and men – that She continues to firmly, gently, uncompromisingly say “no.”
It’s the same reason I say no to my kids when they bolt in parking lots and run blindly into the street after a stray soccer ball. It’s the same motivation that compels me to store poison up high and restrict certain media content from entering our home.
I love them.
I love them enough to say no to them even when they’re really, really sure the thing they want to do is worth doing, and is a good to be pursued.
I don’t want them to get hurt, and if I know better, as the wiser, older, well-formed and properly instructed parent, I say no.
Even when it frustrates them. Even when they tantrum.
Because their ultimate happiness is tied to their wholeness and their health, body and soul, and I won’t permit them to inflict self harm in pursuit of a temporary perceived good when I know the long-term cost is one of destruction and heartache.
So what, exactly, is wrong with contraception?
Contraception is anti life because it opposes the creation of new life physically, by preventing fertilization or by means of preventive sterilization, but it’s also anti life because many popular forms of contraception are actually abortifacient in nature, meaning they are capable of causing early abortions as a secondary line of defense against pregnancy.
Some examples of this are IUDs, the Depo Provera shot, and certain forms of the Pill, including but not limited to the so called “Morning After” pill.
But even those forms of contraception that aren’t capable of causing abortions – condoms or diaphrams or the good old-fashioned withdrawal method, – they’re still anti-life. They still strip away the procreative aspect from sex, and as we understand as Catholics, sex has two fundamental purposes: it is both procreative and unitive.
And in its perfect design, sex is good. It’s very good. There’s no question about it.
Because sex is fundamentally ordered to bring forth new life – it’s literally how God is writing the story of Salvation History, how He continues to bring new life into the world – it is intended to unite and bond the spouses.
So sex is supposed to feel good. It’s supposed to be wildly delightful and desirable. And it is fundamentally ordered toward the creation of new human life. Not every sexual act will result in new life, nor is every act capable of doing so (read: any biology textbook explaining the human reproductive cycle, paying particular attention to the female body) but God designed sex to bring forth babies. Not every time, but a lot of the time. And the Creator of sex – and of people – is the One who has the ultimate say so.
St. JPII was the master of interpreting – and putting into laymen terms – Christian sexual ethics. His early work “Love and Responsibility,” written when he was still Karol Wojtyla, includes sections on mutual enjoyment and sexual satisfaction between spouses that could make a public school health teacher blush. So forget anything you’ve heard about the Church – or God – being anti-sex.
God created sex, and He created sex in order to continue creating us. Think about that!
It’s the only way He chooses to bring new souls into being. So of course it’s an area of life where we are particularly vulnerable to attacks from the enemy, and to our own concupiscence.
God doesn’t surround us with rules and regulations governing the sexual realm because He’s some kind of cosmic killjoy – it’s because sex is so good and so holy, and because it’s where we participate with Him, directly and intimately, in creating the world anew.
But how do you explain this to someone?
It’s a tough pill to swallow in a culture like ours, so obsessed with the idea of sex but with limited experience with the thing itself.
We’ve got plenty of experience with pornography, with sexually explicit content, with sexual innuendo … but with real sex? With the profound communion of persons, united in the sacramental love of spouses, freely giving and receiving the entirety of the Other?
We aren’t as familiar with that.
Our culture styles itself as sexually free and fulfilled, but to look around is to recognize the price we’re paying for this apparent freedom, as individuals and as a larger community.
Sex, “freed” from the bonds of marriage and the responsibility of parenthood, is actually fairly disastrous. Particularly to women and children.
Rather than making us – especially women – more free, contraception has resulted in deeper slavery – sometimes literally as we witness in the growing global scourge of human trafficking (which is fundamentally enabled by and dependent upon the availability and effectiveness of contraception), and sometimes solely on a spiritual level, no less real, but often unseen and unacknowledged.
Because sex, divorced from love, divorced from its life-giving potential…is just another bodily function. An exchange of fluids and pleasantries, and an opportunity to use and to be used; perhaps with a stranger or perhaps with your spouse.
And this is the antithesis of what God designed it for, designed us for – to give and to receive love.
And in each of those scenarios I mentioned above – the one night stand, the casual relationship, the paid transaction – made possible by the availabilty of contraception, there is damage done to both the relationship and the participants.
Because in reality?
There is no such thing as casual sex.
There is no such thing as protected sex.
And there is no such thing as “safe” sex.
Sex isn’t casual, even if the two (or more!) constenting parties spit shake and swear on it. You can’t unhitch a thing from its meaning just by saying so.
And since sex is not a human innovation but a divine invention, purposefully and intelligently designed for us and for our good…we’re not the ones who get to write the user’s manual on it.
Stay tuned for later this week when we’ll talk about the hard cases, the heartache of infertility, and the fundamental difference between NFP – Natural Family Planning – and contraception.
Jenny Uebbing is the content editor for Catholic News Agency's marriage and family life channel. She blogs at Mama Needs Coffee about faith, sex, family life, contraception, and Catholicism. She lives in Denver with her husband David and their growing family. This blog is reprinted here with permission of the author.