The recent Bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom initiative had me shaking my head. Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate was a golden opportunity for the bishops to make up for their sinful silence on contraception after Humanae Vitae’s release in 1968. What a teaching moment! Sadly, ever timid about being a sign of contradiction, the bishops once again ducked, focusing the issue on religious freedom, certainly a valuable initiative but one that ignored the central issue of contraception, so much so that several bishops fell all over themselves saying they didn’t want to deny anyone their birth control.
Well, sure, I understand that you can’t force people to make correct moral decisions, but how about the bishops using the contraceptive mandate to educate Catholics about why we are in this pickle in the first place – silence from the teachers and a failure to boldly confront the most basic assault against authentic married love and the family, the separation of sexual intercourse from procreation! Christians weren’t the first to promote sterile sex acts, practiced for millennia, but jumping on the train, which many Catholics did after release of the pill, was like joining Lenin as he barreled across Europe into Russia to foment the Communist Revolution. Winston Churchill called him a “plague bacillus” and contraception has proved to be one as well. But you sure wouldn’t know it from the silence in the pulpit. Sadly, many Catholics, spurred by dissenting clergy and the bishops’ failure to teach, joined the revolution promoting pleasure without progeny. Catholics, who could have vaccinated the culture against the “plague bacillus” of contraception, themselves helped transmit and spread the infection.
As for the religious freedom approach, it’s a sticky wicket. Do Christians really support, for example, religious freedom of Wiccans to use military chapels? Should we condemn the Spanish conquistadores for halting the Aztec practice of human sacrifice? Were the monarchs of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella, wrong to banish the moors? Must we defend Sharia Law in our communities along with the practice of child brides and female mutilation – all in the name of religious freedom? Arguing for religious freedom is fine, but it is an ambiguous moral issue unlike contraception. It’s hard, however, to argue against paying for contraception when you’ve offered it for decades, the case in New York’s Catholic institutions as Cardinal Timothy Dolan admitted last year. Nevertheless, it is long past time to refocus the fight on contraception – at least within the Church. End the silence against this root evil!
In 1974 I attended Fr. Paul Marx’s Marriage and Family Life Workshop sponsored by the Human Life Center at St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN. (That was before Fr. Marx was forced out by his dissenting brothers and relocated to the D.C. area where he established Human Life International. But that’s another story.) The focus of the workshop was contraception and Natural Family Planning (NFP). Experts from all over the world attended and presented papers. One of the most controversial was a slide presentation on the homosexual movement prepared by Nona Aguilar, author of No Pill No Risk Birth Control. Too ill to read her paper, Nona had a colleague substitute. He showed the slides, often graphic, of editorial cartoons depicting homosexual “humor.” I remember sinking lower and lower into my seat as I looked at the screen and heard graphic quotes illustrating homosexual inroads in the culture via Playboy Magazine, the New Yorker, and other print media. A young mom, newly pregnant with our third child, I had almost no knowledge of homosexuality or the homosexual network and its agenda. Most of the audience appeared to be as clueless as I was and many objected to comparing the sterile and perverted sex of homosexual sodomy to the sterile sex within normal heterosexual relationships. Some were even irate at the subject being included in the conference at all.
In retrospect, I’m convinced Nona was a prophet blowing the warning trumpet. Less than a decade later, Fr. Enrique Rueda published The Homosexual Network, an extensive review of the infiltration of all major cultural institutions by homosexual activists. Like Nona, Father was also ignored. These two pioneers, a lay woman and a priest, were among the first raising the alarm against both contraception and sodomy and the link between them.
The silence from the bishops and their priests during this post Humane Vitae era was deafening. The loudest noise came from dissenters, including Catholic clergy like Charlie Curran et al, who publicly rejected the encyclical and encouraged the flock to disobey. They succeeded well as shown by the fact that opinion surveys since 1968 show more and more Catholics rejecting Church teaching. In March last year, a Pew survey reported 76% of all Catholics and, even more alarming, 64% of those who attend Mass weekly think the Church should allow birth control. The number of Catholic women who actually contracept is less clear. The 98% figure often touted by media comes from Planned Parenthood’s research arm, The Guttmacher Institute, and is clearly false, apparently deliberately so since they included in their study a figure of 11% who use no birth control at all. Whatever the statistics, many Catholics accept sterile heterosexual sex as a norm, perfectly compatible with their cafeteria Catholic beliefs. So is it really surprising to find that a Quinnipiac University survey last year showed a majority of Catholics who attend Mass weekly (53%) also accept the sterile sex of “gay marriage” and want the Church to accept it as well?
Which leads to another question. Are the twin evils of contraception and sodomy unrelated or are they as closely linked as cause and effect? John Kipply, co-founder of the Couple to Couple League (CCL) recently wrote that the “growing societal acceptance (or imposition) of sodomy-as-marriage” shows that “modern society and federal judges have already rejected traditional Christian marriage.” He attributes that rejection to acceptance of contraception, no-fault divorce, and same-sex marriage. It started, he says, with the collapse of Christian churches opposing birth control beginning with the Anglican’s Lambeth Conference of 1930. It accelerated with the sexual revolution and development of the pill and escalated further with legalization of sodomy and same-sex marriage. “In brief,” Kippley says, “within a few short years, the societal acceptance of contraception had led to the destruction of the idea of marriage as a divinely instituted and permanent relationship for having children and raising them in the ways of the Lord.” Kippley goes on to ask, “Why is [sodomy] having greater acceptance today? I submit that it is because so many of those who call themselves Christian have turned their backs on the demands of Christian married love.”
Charles Wilson of the St. Joseph Foundation agrees. “How did the decline of moral behavior come about? There is surely more than one cause; but in my opinion, widespread acceptance of the contraceptive mentality is the single most significant factor, even among Catholics
…. By claiming that the use of the contraceptives by married people is morally acceptable, one is essentially claiming that there is nothing wrong with sex for pleasure alone. If this is so, is there any logical basis for saying that it should be limited to married couples or even people of the opposite sex? In other words, is it fair to say that acceptance of contraception forms the basis for saying that any form of consensual sexual behavior is also acceptable?”
Exactly! And, in fact, many homosexual activists challenge accusations against “unnatural sex acts” by replying, as Fr. Brian Harrison points out, "Hey, you folks can't trot out that argument against our lifestyle! What's the big deal about something being 'unnatural'? Using condoms, diaphragms and pills to block conception isn't 'natural' sex either! But you already stopped calling these things immoral at least a generation ago; and now contraceptives even have the U.S. Supreme Court's stamp of approval since it struck down the Victorian-era Comstock Laws that prohibited their sale and distribution."
Kippley, Wilson, and Harrison’s views are not new or confined to orthodox Catholics. Martin Luther called Onan a “malicious and incorrigible scoundrel” and labeled his act of withdrawal to prevent pregnancy a “Sodomitic sin” directly linking heterosexual contraception to sins of homosexuality. Calvin condemned Onan’s sin as well. It took modern heretics to reinvent marriage as an institution for pleasure with children an unnecessary and optional accessory. Once taken, that giant step of iniquity eliminated any logical rationale against sterile sex for pleasure both natural and unnatural. And, as we’ve seen, the push for pedophilia, incest, polygamy, polyamory, and even bestiality is growing.
What can be done to halt what appears to be an unstoppable destructive juggernaut? The answer is always the same in every age: personal holiness and reevangeli-zation of the culture. Christians in the first century didn’t publicly challenge the Roman pagans. They simply lived lives full of grace and virtue. They met to worship and study the faith, usually in hiding, and they embraced it so closely they were willing to die when challenged. Their compelling witness was not only a sign of contradiction to the prevailing immoral culture, but inspired imitation.
Fast forward to today. The problem now is that most Catholics, unlike the early Christians, conform to the world. Instead of their beliefs and actions challenging the culture, they embrace the same errors and evils as their neighbors. So what do we do? Work from both the bottom up and the top down.
A priest friend recently suggested what a great work the bishops could do by developing a topnotch website on marriage in a way that appealed to social-media-savvy young adults. Imagine a site visited daily by tens of thousands that presented Church teaching on marriage and sexuality in a way that appealed to the young and connected them to a local church. The bishops could invest some of that money they pour into community organizations undermining marriage to promote the faith and portray chastity, fidelity, and openness to life as good news. Not only could such a website feature truths of the faith, but the devastating consequences of contraception and abortion presented by secular sources. It could also offer stories of young families living the faith in its fullness testifying to the beauty and satisfaction of authentic married love. Remember the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words? Photos of happy couples and families would be up front like flowers that attract bees to a garden. The articles and documents would be just a click away. Beauty and truth call to the heart and our young people long for it after being immersed for so long in ugliness and lies. But we need to get their attention. The USCCB website has some good articles on marriage, but how many young people visit their boring site to read them? We need a smarter approach. We need to go where the young people are and that’s on social media. A marriage app for I-phones and books with app scans embedded could be given to young couples preparing for marriage. As a former team member on Engaged Encounter I can personally testify that many young couples want a nicy-nice Church wedding, but are functionally illiterate when it comes to the faith. Many are living together and fornicating. Some, perhaps most, are already using contraception. What a teachable moment – what great tools we could develop to help them.
But for now, we already have good, if limited, resources available. One, Fr. John Hardon’s Eternal Life group, recently held its annual Church Teaches Forum focusing on marriage. Two cardinals, Raymond Burke, head of the highest Vatican court and Francis Arinze, Prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and two archbishops, Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco and Joseph Kurtz of Louisville were among the speakers addressing the theme, Marriage: The Cradle of the Culture of Life. The conference presented solid teaching including marriage in God’s divine plan, , how to build a culture of life, the devastating impact of contraception and other evils on the family, and the necessity for better marriage preparation and enrichment.
Think of the impact if every diocese in the country offered programs like this providing free babysitting for young parents and inviting all couples preparing for marriage to participate. Young people in love presume their future happiness, but many have no idea that happiness comes at a price, and that price is hard work, love of truth, and adherence to God’s laws on marriage and sexuality. Blessed Mother Teresa made it clear how destructive contraception is to marriage when she said, “in destroying the power of giving life, through contraception, a husband or wife…destroys the gift of love.” Couples can’t reject a part of each other, their capacity to give life, and claim to be united as “one flesh.” They can’t adopt the lax and lascivious rules of the world and expect to achieve a marriage made in heaven! That requires grace, prayer, and hard work. When they choose the world’s way of self-gratification over God’s plan for marriage, they reject true love.
Wilson draws a lovely “what if” picture on marriage. “Just suppose…that everyone lived by the Church’s teaching on marriage and family life. The secular effects alone would be enormous. Social ills like illegitimacy, pornography, prostitution and broken marriages would be dramatically reduced. What if every child lived in a family where his father and mother were stably married to each other? Surely the costs of welfare and related services would plummet, as would the costs of psychological therapy.” But, in addition to the secular effects, we would also see the fulfillment of Christ’s promise that, “The kingdom of God is in your midst.” Such a reality can begin today with each Catholic couple who commits to living marriage modeled on God’s plan. God is the maker and He wrote the user’s manual. Those who follow it can become beacons to a world that needs their witness of authentic married love. Will you be that witness?
1 Patrick Counihan, Cardinal Dolan admits his archdiocese pays up for contraception and abortion, Irish Central, May 28 2013, See http://www.irishcentral.com/news/cardinal-dolan-admits-his-archdiocese-pays-up-for-contraception-and-abortion-insurance-209144371-237592.
2 Results of Pew Survey on birth control and other issues. See http://www.pewforum.org/2013/03/18/us-catholics-happy-with-selection-of-pope-francis/
3 Lydia McGrew, How to Lie with Statistics. See http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2012/02/how_to_lie_with_statistics_exa_1.html
4 Catholic World News, Poll: majority of Catholics who attend Mass weekly support same-sex marriage, women’s ordination October 7, 2013. See at http://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=19267
5 John Kippley, Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage, See at http://johnkippley.com/2014/07/12/homosexuality-and-the-future-of-marriage/
9 Charles M. Wilson, When in North America, do as the early Christians did in Rome, Christifidelis, Vol. 32, No. 3, August 15, 2014.
10 Fr. Brian Harrison, Contraception Leads Logically to Same-Sex ‘Marriage,’ See http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/abbott/130423
10 David Armstrong, Why Did God Kill Onan? See http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2004/02/why-did-god-kill-onan-luther-calvin.html.
12 James Likoudis,The Church Teaches Forum Confronts Contraception and the Culture of Death., The Wanderer Press http://thewandererpress.com/frontpage/the-church-teaches-forum-confronts-contraception-and-the-culture-of-death/
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