“Lookit, Uncle, it’s just a matter of time until the Catholic Church catches up with the world and declares contraception to be OK.” My nephew with a masters in theology from a Catholic university and I were trying our best to have a meaningful discussion while fishing. Which is harder than you might think when they’re biting.
So he went on, “I mean, Pope Paul VI ignored the papal commission he set up that recommended the Church allow birth control, and wrote Humanae Vitae condemning it. Inevitably the commission’s recommendations are going to be accepted.”
I can sympathize with my nephew’s expectation. He and his lovely wife struggle raising four children as most anyone would, and they’re still quite young. If he thinks it’s inevitable, why should he wait, oh, maybe 200 years before the Church finally approves contraception? Why not just beat them to the punch? After all, other things have changed. We no longer have to refuse meat on Fridays, or avoid a wedding in a non-Catholic church if a priest or deacon is there — once unthinkable. I mean, if they can release all those priests and nuns from their perpetual vows… what’s the big deal about allowing needy couples to use a little contraception?
And lo and behold, we’re suddenly getting a new pope. I can hear him thinking, “Maybe he’ll listen to reason and try to modernize the Church.”
Except that the Church has consistently held this position on contracepting for nearly 2,000 years. Humanae Vitae wasn’t news. It was reiteration. Restatement. Same ol’ thing served up warmed up but with more emphasis on the unitive aspect of marriage. The Church’s position has nothing to do with catching up to the modern world, and everything to do with what remains fundamentally true about human nature.
Humanae Vitae, promulgated in 1968, is worth a read just for the predictions — which have all come true. Another fascinating read is “Brave New World” — an amazingly prophetic book written by an agnostic Englishman, Aldous Huxley, in 1932. Undoubtedly he was moved by Protestantism — led by the Anglican Church in 1930 — approving contraception after some 400 years.
It might be instructive to ask what a new pope would see in contraception that his predecessors did not. “Lookit,” I said back to young nephew, “we’ve now had over 50 years of experience with readily available, really good contraception, and if you can know something by the fruits it produces, it’s pretty easy to see that contraception is not just for family planning. You get other kinds of fruit.”
What? Oh, how’s 40 percent illegitimacy? Or promiscuity considered as normal behavior? Or 25 percent or more of high school women with sexually transmitted infections? Perhaps 1.2 million abortions annually? Or 50 percent of marriages ending in divorce? Some 30 percent fewer couples marrying but 10 times as many couples cohabiting as in 1960? And don’t forget worldwide dropping populations.
Predictably, he answered that to attribute these various societal ills to contraception was to vastly oversimplify.
Was I oversimplifying out there on beautiful Red Lake? No I was not. I was around in 1960 – BP – Before Pill. It was a different world. Promiscuity was unusual behavior then — even for men. Virginity at marriage was a commonly talked about ideal. Divorce was much less. Only 8 percent of children were illegitimate. Sexually transmitted infection was uncommon in high school and beyond. Abortions were just about non-existent – even illegal ones.
If the simple answer of contraception is not at the bottom of these problems, see if you can get someone to tell you what is. What you will likely hear is nonsense made to sound complicated, and likely, no mention of contraception. Popular thinking is totally stifled by this delicious poison.
To give up the poison and follow Church teaching probably requires understanding best gained through a faith commitment. Therefore, don’t expect the world to see the light even as things get worse — and they can only get worse.
The early Church overcame paganism. We must do the same — against a modern paganism that’s arguably more evil. In the midst of our morally declining civilization, faithful Catholics may have to suffer, but we can ultimately grow, prosper, and lead the world to the truth the Magisterium proclaims. Fish for the truth, dear nephew. It’s tastier and more satisfying than even our Canadian walleyes. Benedicamus Domino.