Reflecting on Humanae Vitae: Do We Really Need More Contraception?
back when all this began? In Humanae Vitae, he warned, "Upright men can even better convince themselves of the solid grounds on which the teaching of the Church in this field is based if they care to reflect upon the consequences of methods of artificially limiting the increase of children. Let them consider, first of all, how wide and easy a road would thus be opened up towards conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality."
"Not much experience is needed in order to know human weakness, and to understand that men-especially the young, who are so vulnerable on this point-have need of encouragement to be faithful to the moral law, so that they must not be offered some easy means of eluding its observance. It is also to be feared that the man, growing used to the employment of anti-conceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion" (HV 17)."
Was he right? Has there been an increase in conjugal infidelity? It is tough to measure infidelity per se, but we can look at family statistics. In 1959, there were 395,000 divorces, whereas in there were 1,135,000 in 1998. The mathematics are complex, and involve assumptions that vary between researchers, but the estimate today of a marriage ending in divorce is from 43-50%. In 1950, 9% of homes had a single occupant, versus over 25% today. The "lowering of morality" of which the Holy Father speaks is evident from the figures on contraception.
The elephant in the parlor, of course, is abortion. The Center for Bioethical Reform reports that in the United States, we are killing 1.37 million children per year, or a rate of 3,700 per day. 52% of the women obtaining abortions are under 25 years of age, and 20% are teenagers. Over 64% have never been married. How is this related to contraception? The basic issue is that people want to divorce the sex act from procreation, and thus from marriage.
The emphasis on this notion of "love" started with the flower children of the 60's, and has since become a national mantra. Because of the "burden" of pregnancy that our President thinks women should be spared, we invented contraception. However, people do not always use contraception, and contraception is not always effective. So, society needs a back-up plan in the form of abortion.
The reason for its attractiveness of the emphasis on love is that it is a partial truth. The definition of "love" has become more like the definition of "lust" that what God meant by love. By "love" the culture means the feeling rather than the choice. The feeling is merely transitory attractiveness that often disappears after the sexual appetite is satisfied, instead of being the commitment that is engendered by real love. It is illusory, impermanent, and self-centered. It has nothing to do with responsibility and everything to do with immaturity and irresponsibility.
Have women benefited from their "liberation", brought about by the "sexual revolution" empowered by contraception? Hardly. In addition to being pressured into an activity that she knows is sinful, a woman must bear the psychological scars of being dumped when her paramour moves on to greener pastures. She may face the decision of whether or not to have an abortion and commit a heinous crime, or face the prospects of being a single mother. She may also bear the scars of side effects of her birth control or a sexual transmitted disease, of which the CDC estimates there are 19,000,000 new cases every year.
According to the Heritage Foundation, in 2001 over 34% of babies were born to single mothers overall, with figures varying according to race. These children are seven times more likely to be poor than children born to families. Nearly three-quarters of government means-tested welfare aid to children goes to single-parent families. Over 80 percent of long-term child poverty occurs in broken or never-married families.
It is obvious that Pope Paul VI was prescient in predicting that contraception would lead to the destruction of marriage, families, and ultimately society. Turning a blind eye to 50 years of data since the advent of easily available contraception, proponents of birth control say that the problem is not that there are too many illegitimate children born alive and killed before birth, but that there is not enough contraception.
The truth is that God has a beautiful plan for his people that results mutual commitment between spouses, the formation of families that can nurture future generations, and an intact social structure. When we try to circumvent that plan, when we misuse the gifts we have been given, we are trying to achieve what seems to be a good end by using bad means, and that never works. As an advertisement for margarine said years ago, "You can't fool Mother Nature", and the Bible says, "God is not mocked."
Dr. Frederick Liewehr is an endodontist who teaches and works in private practice. He converted from Protestantism to Catholicism in 1983, having been drawn ineluctably to Christ's Church by the light of Truth. He is a member of St. Benedict parish in Richmond, a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus and a Cooperator of Opus Dei
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Humanae Vitae, contraception, Pope paul VI, abortion, morality, Love, marriage, Dr. Frederick Liewehr
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