Societal evils and contraceptionBirth Control in the Catholic Church

November 02, 2002, 03:52 PM
Societal evils and contraception

Many of the proponents of NFP argue that ABC is the root of all sexual immorality in society. Is this argument from consequences itself valid? It would only be valid if there were a necessary causal connection between contraception and, for example, premarital sex. And this connection would have to be based on the severing of the unitive aspect of the conjugal act from any relationship to procreation. But as we have seen, the unitive dimension is itself procreative. In the case of premarital sexuality is it valid to say that contraception is a direct cause of it? If we examine the nature of the conjugal act we can see why premarital sex is wrong. If the couple have a child, they are not in a position to adequately care for it. They do a disservice to the child and to themselves, for they may be forced to take on responsibilities they are not ready for, and they run the risk of disorienting their lives. If they do not have a child, is it valid to argue that they have harmed no one? No. They are, in the exercise of the conjugal act, either activating or suppressing its unitive dimension. If they are suppressing the unitive dimension with its mutual love, they are trivializing this sacred mystery of union, and reducing their capacity to enter fully into it later. If they are willing this unitive love, they are binding themselves together in a special shared life in view of the child to come. They are intimately knitting their lives together to create the optimal situation in which the child ought to be born. If they leave each other, even if they intended to from the beginning, they rip this shared life apart which can be both painful and psychologically harmful.
Does contraception cause premarital sex? No. In actual fact many teenagers who engage in premarital sex do not use any contraceptives, a fact which leads to the U.S.'s alarmingly high rate of teenage pregnancy and abortion.

What the this argument amounts to is that there is what is loosely called a "contraceptive mentality" which is destructive to genuine sexual values. But it is not demonstrated that the practice of contraception has a necessary connection to this contraceptive mentality. Just as the use of contraceptives in situations where rhythm is appropriate is not a general solution to the problem of the married state, the use of contraceptives is not necessarily implicated in a wide variety of sexual problems. We should not make the current widespread problems in sexual morality a new argument from totality that runs: the Pope feared bad consequences from the use of contraceptives, and bad things have, indeed, occurred. Therefore contraception is rightly condemned. We must demonstrate contraception directly causes the bad consequences. Otherwise, if natural family planning is continually perfected and becomes more accurate, simpler in application and with less time of abstinence, then someday someone could argue that it, too, leads to bad consequences, for it has the capacity to be abused.

Nor is it appropriate to link abortion to contraception, as if the large number of Catholic married people who use contraceptives are incipient abortionists. This is loose language which is both inaccurate and offensive.

It is entirely possible to agree with the Church's teaching on most points of sexual morality and still disagree with its condemnation of contraception.
November 02, 2002, 08:47 PM
Fr. Stanislas de Lestapis, a French Jesuit, died in 1999 at the age of 94. He had been a member of the Papal Commission on Birth Control and was one of the signatories of its so-called Minority Report. He had published a book on Birth Control, of which the third edition appeared in 1962, long before Humanae Vitae (1968). In Chapter 7, on The Contraceptive Civilisation, he made the following bold prophecies:

"-We do not hesitate to say that the acceptance of contraception will produce profound changes in our civilisation. These changes are already taking place in countries that have officially endorsed contraception for one or two generations.

"-- Voluntary numerous families will progressively disappear, and the large family will tend to appear as a monstrosity.

"-- Populations and families which have deliberately become less creative will experience spiritual ageing and premature sclerosis.

"-- The idea and the ideal of family happiness will be downgraded in terms of a so-called right to happiness and of what people think are the ‘techniques’ for achieving it.

-- "Morality among the young will deteriorate. The unmarried will be more licentious. The sexuality of women will lose its connection with marriage.

"-- There will be a grave change in the bond of love, due to the reversal of sexual function. It will remain fixed at an "adolescent" stage. Society as a whole will slip into this "transitory" stage.

"-- The maternal instinct will become sterile, due to the repression of the desire for children which is innate in women. There will be a silent hostility toward life and its first manifestations: pregnancy, child-birth and even sometimes towards dolls and babies.

"-- A new concept of sex, now essentially defined as "the capacity for erotic play for the sake of the couple", all reference to procreation now being only accidental.

"-- A growing confusion between the two sexes and less resistance to "sexual inversions": the concept of man will lose some of its masculine characteristics, while that of woman becomes less feminine.

"-- A growing tolerance of homosexual behaviour, as erotic play that at best succeeds in expressing personal intimacy between friends or lovers.

"Finally, contraception will raise hopes which it cannot fulfil, and will give rise to frustrations and deep dissatisfactions, which will contribute to:

‘--- The crisis of divorce and instability of modern marriages.

"--- The deterioration of mental health, and the lack of sexual desire in women, noted in the Kinsey Report.

"--- The abdication of parents confronted by their task as educators.

"-- The ennui secreted by a civilisation that is entirely centred on a comfortable way of life and sexual satisfaction.

I will find you data on NFP divorce rates.

I retract the sophistry reference and intend no ad hominems.

November 02, 2002, 09:31 PM
here is some data on divorce rates

I don't know if the link will work.

November 03, 2002, 11:39 AM
N.F., perhaps you skimmed through this part of James' thoughtful opening post:
We should not make the current widespread problems in sexual morality a new argument from totality that runs: the Pope feared bad consequences from the use of contraceptives, and bad things have, indeed, occurred. Therefore contraception is rightly condemned. We must demonstrate contraception directly causes the bad consequences.

It so happens that the pronouncements made by Fr. Lestapis came at a time when not only was the birth control pill gaining acceptance, but the following trends were also emerging:

- increase of alcohol and drug abuse;
- the "coming of age" of the baby boom generation, which carried a new set of values and expectations into marriage and family;
- increase of percentage of women who worked outside the home;
- growing distrust in political and religious institutions;
- rise in materialism.

I'm sure the trends predicted by the good Father were as affected by these factors as contraception, don't you think? To make contraception the decisive factor seems rather narrow, and fails, at any rate, to remove part of the blame from NFP, which was also becoming increasingly sophisticated during this time and better able to guarantee the likelihood of non-procreative sex.

I searched the report by the Couple-to-Couple league you referred us to, but found nothing especially significant there. Obviously, most NFP users are highly conscientious religious people, which probably has as great an influence on their divorce rate as the practice of NFP. Where was the control group of ABC users who attend Church regularly, pray regularly, etc. to use as a comparison? That would be required if their report were to have any relevance as a contrast to ABC.

[This message was edited by Editor on November 03, 2002 at 09:55 AM.]
November 03, 2002, 09:22 PM
Although the stats about low divorce rate and NFP are wonderful, it is possible to find for every NFP couple that stays married a lifetime 2 or 3 (perhaps more)ABC using couples who also stay married a lifetime. Of all married couples only a little more than half divorce and of all married couples only 3 to 4 % ever use NFP, as clarified at CCLI by Mr. Kippley himself. You see what I am driving at? There is much more to what keeps couples married than NFP. Furthermore, Fr. Lestapis' predictions were base on things that had already started coming to be in the 1950s, prior to the advent of the pill and during a time of increased usage of the rythmn method. Fr. Lestapis was making predictions based on phenomena he had already witnessed. His conclusions were that they would only increase. But certainly this is no revelation in the strictest of senses. And however venerable Fr. Lestapis was it is certainly no indication that ABC is a direct cause of any of these things, especially once we consider that these were already starting to take place post WWII, and without widespread use of ABCs. That is like predicting that we will have more terrorist attacks. They've already begin so obviously the likelyhood of more happening is quite great. In other words statistically speaking these predictions were a pretty safe bet to make considering what had already occurred. But, again that still does not prove ABC the culprit, anymore than rythmn (NFP) is the culprit. If we used your logic however, NFP would be the strongest of causes. It was being used to a greater degree than the pill, since the pill had not gained much social acceptance at this time.
November 04, 2002, 02:06 AM
no more consequentialism for me
I suppose I have been seduced into arguing on your consequentialistic terms. Sorry. I have erred in this regard, for consequentialism is the tool of moral relativists and situation ethicists and is anathema to an authentically Catholic moral theology.

November 04, 2002, 04:12 PM
James (and anyone else interested),

This is in answer to your invocation that the Church has changed it's teaching on slavery.

Check out this website:

November 04, 2002, 05:26 PM
Yes, I've heard this arguement on several occassions, Webby. It is not convincing however because it attempts to say that certain types of ownership over another human being are acceptable, which is why the Church was never in err to begin with. This is flawed, we either believe it is intrinsically evil to own another human being, its legality or societal acceptance not withstanding, or we do not.