What’s the big deal about contraception?

“Another one? What are you, a Catholic?!”

The topic of this blog post? Artificial contraception. Well, folks, you can’t get much more controversial than I’m about to get. This is a topic that I have contemplated writing about for some time now and it is something that I had to confront when entering into full communion with the Catholic Church. As always, feel free to leave your comments below or on social media if you feel so inclined. 

Among Non-Catholics and Catholics alike, the topic of contraception is a controversial one which typically draws a disperate range of reactions from people from across all socioeconomic groups. In a word, it is disputed. Why is that? I am no expert and I have not conducted any studies of my own, but from my perspective I would attribute it to a misinformed notion of what human sexuality is all about. 
Let me preface my words by saying that I in no way am seeking to typecast everyone who uses artificial contraception as a greedy, dreadfully sinful person in need of a good “talking to.” I do not seek to judge or to humiliate, but to share on a topic that I thought to be a nonissue a couple of years ago. With that said, contraception cannot be relegated to a corner and simply forgotten about. As a convert to Catholicism I had to state the following on the day that I was fully received into the church: “I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.” That’s right, ALL. That applies even to those teachings concerning sexuality, an area that most of us have a hard time relinquishing control over. 

The Catholic Church is clear on her position on contraception and it behooves us, especially those of us who are Catholic, to understand the church’s teaching. The Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 2370 condemns any artificial method which impedes or stops the conjugal act from taking its natural route. Pope Paul VI wrote in his encyclical, Humanae Vitae that “…excluded is every action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, propose, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible”.* 

It doesn’t get much clearer than that. Any form of artificial contraception is excluded and inherently sinful. The reason why is rooted in how one views human sexuality. The Catholic Church teaches that the conjugal act is both procreative and unitive. If either one of these elements is missing, the couple not only commits a serious sin but they are directly going against the natural law which undergirds all of creation. When a couple contracepts, they both halt the natural ends of procreation and they deny one another the total gift of self. In essence, one is stating with their body that the other is merely an object to be used and not a partner to share their entire being with. The great Catholic theologian and bishop, St. Augustine of Hippo, had the following to say about the use of contraception:

I am supposing, then, although you are not lying [with your wife] for the sake of procreating offspring, you are not for the sake of lust obstructing their procreation by an evil prayer or an evil deed. Those who do this, although they are called husband and wife, are not; nor do they retain any reality of marriage, but with a respectable name cover a shame. Sometimes this lustful cruelty, or cruel lust, comes to this, that they even procure poisons of sterility. . . . Assuredly if both husband and wife are like this, they are not married, and if they were like this from the beginning they come together not joined in matrimony but in seduction. If both are not like this, I dare to say that either the wife is in a fashion the harlot of her husband or he is an adulterer with his own wife” (Marriage and Concupiscence 1:15:17 [A.D. 419]).*

Now that we know the facts, does this relegate couples to being “executive baby machines” as Jeannie Gaffigan describes herself on Twitter? In fact, Jeannie’s sarcastic title spells out the answer: No! There are natural means by which one can plan a family that does not include the use of artificial contraceptives. In addition to finding out how to space your children naturally, you will also gain a deeper understanding of your spouse and how periods of abstinence can strengthen your marriage. More on those methods can be found at the following website: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/natural-family-planning/ 

To say that I am an expert in this field would be to assume too much. My wife and I are approaching our 3rd anniversary and we are expecting our second child this December. So, yes, I have a long way to go and a lot to learn about being an effective husband and father. But before tossing out the reactionary, “silly kid…”,  I would urge you to investigate further the Catholic Church’s teaching on this point. I may not know all the answers regarding the sacrament of marriage, but the Church and her founder knows all the right answers. He happens to be the one who created it in the first place after all.  

Peace be with you! 


*1) Humanae Vitae, paragraph 14
*2) Taken from the Catholic.com article, Contraception and Sterilization
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