In case you missed it, I used my debut post on Catholic Stand to suggest that contraception may not be the great and mighty liberator of women that it’s chalked up to be, and maybe, just maybe, it does more harm than good.
The blog garnered a decent amount of response, much of which expressed shock and surprise that I would dare speak out against the 8th sacrament of synthetically neutralizing a woman’s fertility.
Outside of a few poorly executed personal digs, these comments (read: angry rants in long essay form) so perfectly highlighted the biggest problem we have whenever we talk about sex and birth control, which is that so many people, even those (and in many cases especially those) in marriages, have the absolute wrong idea about sex.
(I know, I know. Stay out of your bedroom. If you don’t want to hear it, scroll past the blog.)
Sex Is From God
Sex, as in the marital act between man and wife (not that fornication business), is from God, and like any other divine gift, it comes with an objective truth. That truth is that sex is first and foremost a procreative action that must always be ordered towards life, and in order for it to be so, it must be an act of complete, all-inclusive, unrestricted self-giving. This is precisely what makes sex such a wonderful, pleasurable, and unitive experience to begin with.
Artificial contraception does not allow for total self-giving. In fact, it does quite the opposite. It withholds. It shuts off a part of the woman to her husband and eliminates the life giving nature of sex. The same goes for the use of condoms, withdrawal, vasectomies, and any sexual act that isn’t ordered towards life. These are violations of God’s design, a distortion of the marital act, and are always gravely sinful.
And that’s just the truth of it.
Yet, so many people today have it completely backwards. They (being virtually all of secular society and, unfortunately, many Christians) want to separate the procreative aspect from the pleasurable aspect and put the wants and desires of the individuals at the center, and that is wrong.
NFP vs. Artificial Contraception
So what, then, about natural family planning? This was quite a point of contention in the comment section of the last blog, and it is often charged that NFP is nothing more than “Catholic birth control.”
Lumping NFP into the same category as artificial contraception is just simple ignorance, and here’s why.
NFP begins and ends with the concept of being open to life. Contraception does not.
NFP seeks to work with the gift of fertility. Contraception works against it.
NFP is about significantly more than avoiding pregnancy. Contraception is not.
Because it does nothing to disrupt the fertility cycle, NFP allows the marital act to remain open to life at all times. Contraception absolutely does not.
(I should also mention that much of the avoidance in NFP consists of patience and chastity. Yes! Even in marriage!)
Church View vs. World View
Look, I get it. Not everyone sees sex in the same light as the Church, and for most people, it would take a complete overhaul of their worldview in order for them to fall in line. Regardless, I’m still going to advocate for the objective truth, because sex is a holy and sacred act, and it should be treated as such.
For Catholics, this is simply non-negotiable. Still though, one favorite argument from dissenters is that a majority of Catholics today tend to ignore the Church’s teachings on sex and contraception.
That argument is moot, because our Church doesn’t work that way. Church teaching isn’t dictated by the congregations. It’s dictated by the truth and enforced by the Church authority.
So if that argument is true, all it means is that a majority of Catholics are flat wrong. It means a majority of Catholics need to start listening to the Church instead of the secular world. (And please, oh please, don’t come back with sensus fidelium. It does not meant what you think it means.)
But just in case there are any Catholics reading this blog that still think the Church’s views on sex are outdated or unimportant, I’m going end with a little perspective from one of the greatest theological minds today, Dr. Scott Hahn.
In his book, Rome Sweet Home, Dr. Hahn speaks at length about the marital act as a renewal of the marriage covenant, and he has some very strong words about throwing contraception into the mix:
When the marriage covenant is renewed, God uses it to give new life. To renew the martial covenant and use birth control to destroy the potential for new life is tantamount to receiving the Eucharist and spitting it on the ground. (Rome Sweet Home, New Conceptions on the Covenant, pg. 27)
Harsh? Maybe. True? Absolutely. Sex is about life. It’s about the total, unrestricted giving of the self. Anything else is outside of God’s design.