March 12, 2012 5:09 pm
The modern world considers contraception one of the most important discoveries of the late twentieth century. And rightly so, in a sense, for our modern lifestyle is in large part made possible by contraception. Thus it is no surprise that the Church’s condemnation of contraception is one of its most controversial teachings.
The sexual revolution of the sixties was a true revolution; our understanding and practice of sex changed radically. Contraception made sex outside of marriage “doable” in an unprecedented way. The modern world thinks of sex as a momentary pleasure that requires no commitment to one’s sexual partner nor to any children that may result. Pregnancy is now considered largely an “accident” of sexual intercourse. The landscape of our lives is now cluttered with individuals damaged by unsuccessful “love” affairs (was true love really involved?), broken marriages, children born out of wedlock (1 in 3 are) and women and men hurt by abortions (nearly 1 in 3 pregnancies is aborted).
The Church considers sex one of God’s great gifts to mankind — a gift that, when misused, can result in terrible unhappiness, a gift that, when respected, can nurture true human happiness. All traditional moralities teach that sex should be reserved for marriage for two reasons — because it signals and cements a deep personal relationship and because children need two parents committed to each other. God made sex as a means for men and women to bond in a powerful and committed way and so that through an act of love they could bring forth new lives, the result of their love and a new source of love.
For the Church, as for God, love, marriage, sex and children are meant to be a package deal. God entrusted spouses with the power of bringing forth new souls — souls that God wants with Him for an eternity. The refusal to leave sexual intercourse open to the possibility of children is to reject the live-giving power of sexual intercourse and to diminish the total selfgiving meant to define sexual intercourse. It is to treat one’s sexual “partner” not as one’s treasured beloved to whom one is totally and uniquely committed but as a replaceable sex object.
The Church recognizes the morality of the use of methods of natural family planning to space or limit family size. NFP is totally ecologically sound — it does not require placing dangerous chemicals in one’s body. It is also extremely effective — not only as a means of controlling one’s family size but also for creating strong marriages. A very high percentage of couples using NFP report great satisfaction with it largely because of increased respect for each other and increased self-respect. NFP helps individuals achieve self-mastery in the sexual realm, a virtue that spills over into other facets of life as well. NFP couples speak of enhanced communication, greater intimacy, selflessness, and cooperation. Happy marriages are uncommon; couples following the Church’s teaching on sexuality seem to have them at an astonishingly high rate. Indeed, there is evidence that NFP couples rarely divorce.
Some of us believe that when the rest of the world comes to see the sense of the Church’s teaching, they too will have happier marriages, children, and lives.