Bishop Soto: Contraception is now the default position in marriage.

In the current issue of the Catholic Herald, Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento writes that most modern couples accept contraception as the “default” position in marriage, only giving up the practice when it’s ‘time to have kids.’ This isn’t merely a drag on our population’s replacement rate, but has itself confused the definition of marriage.

“The prevalence of the practice in and outside of the Catholic community has made contraception the unquestioned default mode of marriage. As a consequence, sexuality and relationships are misunderstood and misused; and their true purpose is misplaced.”

“The habit has shaped the hearts and minds of many, especially the young,” he continued. “Marriage is no longer understood as the covenant of love between a man and a woman that creates life, because procreation is no longer associated with sexual intercourse,” Bishop Soto continued.

He said that in this situation, many people cannot understand why a sexual relationship between any two people who care for each other cannot be called a marriage.

This last point isn’t new, but it’s good to have a bishop say it. There are too few.

Brian Saint-Paul


Brian Saint-Paul was the editor and publisher of Crisis Magazine. He has a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Religious Studies from the Catholic University of America, in Washington. D.C. In addition to various positions in journalism and publishing, he has served as the associate director of a health research institute, a missionary, and a private school teacher. He lives with his wife in a historic Baltimore neighborhood, where he obsesses over Late Antiquity.

  • Zoe

    The problem is that most Catholics have already been using contraception prior to marriage, and know very little about the Church’s teaching on the body, sex, marriage, and family, since their catechesis has been poor to non-existent and their own parents may have practiced contraception or have no problem with it.

    “Back in the day,” it was enough that it was considered a sin and good Catholics didn’t do such things. Before the pill, and easy vasectomies, there wasn’t much you could do anyway. But once there was easy access to contraception and a prevalence in the culture to use it, there needed to be an equally weighty effort made by the Church to offer another view about sex and marriage. It didn’t really happen. Priests and deacons rarely address sex and/or marriage from the pulpit, and there is little opportunity for Catholics to otherwise hear the message.

    There are many factors that go into the contraceptive mindset and it requires more than just saying “the Church says it’s a sin.” Real arguments are required, and they need to start being made before people walk down the aisle.

  • Deana

    I think there are many people who just do not even know about natural family planning. I had never heard of it until a year ago, I think that more Bishops should be like Bishop Soto and really encourage Catholics and all people to use NFP.

    I love it so much I started a blog to spread the word to my family and freinds.

  • Deana

    Here is my blog.

  • Deacon Ed

    always found was presenting the Church’s teaching on the inseparability between the unitive and the procreative aspects of sexual intercourse in marriage. When I talk about contraception, I also refer to this same principle underpinning why the Church is against in vitro fertilization. People (especially those in RCIA programs) have to think about and wrestle with this concept for awhile but eventually they get it.

  • Christopher Manion

    Most of today’s bishops were in grad school when Pope Paul VI promulgated Humanae Vitae on July 25, 1968. If they only knew what a great gift it is! It provides the meatphysical foundation for so many of the Church’s social teachings — unpopular because they are unambiguous — on homosexuality, cohabitation, stem-cells adult and embryonic, and pornography, to name a few.

    There is a hestancy at the USCCB to steer clear of the unambiguous and to embrace the very ambiguous — amnesty, socialized medicine, even the price of tomatoes in Florida… now the USCCB even **supports** a foreign aid bill that contains half a billion for contraception and abortifacients, and $65 million for abortions.

    Humanae Vitae should be the anchor of all of our efforts and teachings in our war against the culture of death. To attempt to somehow “co-opt” the left by embracing “popular” political crusades solves nothing, and ignores much.

  • Joshua

    Anyone on here (or their wives) use Lady-Comp or Pearly? What has been your experience with it? Is it worth it?

  • Christophe

    The problem is not, per Zoe above, that all we hear is “the Church says it’s a sin.” The problem is that we never hear that. And we spend too much time trying to think up intricate, complex justifications for God’s law. The people in the pews are not theologians. God did not couch the Sixth Commandment in catch phrases like “mutual self-giving.” He said, “Thou shalt NOT.”

    • Some Catholics still got the “Thou shalt NOT” from the Church without “intricate, complex justifications”.

      Problem is, many of them are no longer “in the pews”.

  • thereserita

    Sad that you think that understanding “mutual self giving” takes a theologian. The mess we’re in didn’t occur in a vacuum. Prior to 1968, the sum total of the Church’s teaching amounted to “Thou Shalt Not”. Since Catholics didn’t have the roots of that teaching sunk deeply into the reality of Self-Gift living, they were blown away by the Pill just like everyone else.

    No, Christophe, you’re wrong on this. If couples are going to be truly counter-cultural…not just in the bedroom but in their whole relationship…they’re going to have to learn to live Self-Gift or they won’t make it. JPII was right about that.

  • Christophe

    Well then, Theresita, it must be your position that more Catholics used contraceptives before 1968, when all they got was “No,” than now, when they get all sorts of instruction in mutual self-donation, unitive and procreative meanings, and the theology of the body? It’s all been very effective, right?