It’s About Contraception

American Catholics seem to be sleepwalking toward the edge of an abyss.  It’s as if we’ve hardly begun to realize to ourselves what’s at stake in this election.  We don’t like to think about it.  We’re vaguely banking on the hope that whatever happens will not turn out to be a big deal.

One reason for the moral somnolence is that the Obama administration, abetted by the media, has been deliberately misleading the public with lying rhetoric about “access to birth control,” and a Republican “war on women.”  Vice President Biden brazenly asserted that no Catholic institution would be required to provide birth control.  The bogus “accommodation” gave supporters of Obamacare the rhetorical cover they needed to pretend that religious liberty concerns had been addressed.  “The administration backed off,” is how one friend put it to me.

The calculating mendacity of the irreligious left is one of the forces we’re contending with.  We can’t change it; we can only counter and parry as best we can.  But the rhetoric on our side, too, is partly to blame for our too-slack resistance.

Haven’t we all heard and been urged to remember and repeat that “this is not about contraception?”  Rick Santorum said it in his C-PAC speech in February.  My congressman (the good and honorable Joseph Pitts) said it too, at a meeting earlier this year with local pro-life and religious leaders.  Many have said it, politicians, prelates and lay activists alike.  And, of course, they had an important point.  Even those who don’t have objections to birth control should oppose the mandate as an outrageous violation of the “free exercise of religion” guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.  In a pluralistic society, we do well to highlight that element of the injustice.

But there’s a downside to the de-emphasis on birth control.  When Catholics remind each other and announce to the world that “it’s not about contraception!” we’re subtly training ourselves and the rest of society to think of it as a distraction, a side issue.

Then, there is “the parable of the kosher deli,” told by Archbishop Lori and others, arguing that making Catholic institutions pay for birth control is like making a kosher deli sell pork. The analogy is valid as far as it goes. But this way of framing the issue, too, has had the effect of downplaying and obscuring the real evil of the HHS mandate.

Here’s why:  It reinforces the public perception that the prohibition against artificial contraception is a kind of special religious rule relevant only to a small minority of strict Catholics.  And meanwhile, those Catholics remain perfectly free under the mandate not to use birth control if they don’t want to.  You see how a key point is lost?  Orthodox Jews don’t have a problem with non-Jews eating pork, just as Catholics don’t think it’s sinful for non-Catholics to eat meat on Fridays during Lent.  These are positive religious teachings, binding only for committed members.

The case is very different, though, with birth control.  The prohibition against birth control is not a positive religious law.  Catholics oppose birth control not because religious authorities forbid it, but because we’re deeply convinced that it harms persons, and hurts society.

The whole mission of the Catholic Church in the world—the theme and purpose and vocation of every institution and every Catholic individual—is love.  Why does the Church set up hospitals and adoption agencies and soup kitchens? Why have whole orders of nuns been founded to care for the elderly or the sick? Why did St. Damien offer to go to spend his last years serving in a leper colony in Hawaii?  Why did Mother Teresa establish homes for men dying of AIDs?  Why do countless ordinary lay Catholics give time to visit prisoners or shelter unwed mothers or bring Holy Communion to shut-ins?

It’s not for money. It’s not for recognition.  It’s not a plan to increase our numbers and our social influence. It’s not even because the Church is committed to taking care of her own. It matters not at all to any of these institutions or individuals whether the people they’re serving are Catholic.  They don’t have to be Catholic.  They can even be anti-Catholic.  We don’t do it for ourselves; we do it for love.

We do it because we understand that each and every person is made in the image and likeness of God.  Each, no matter how small or weak or wounded or messed up, is completely unique and infinitely precious. We understand that human life is a gift to be received, cherished, and served, not abused, not manipulated, not degraded, not destroyed. This is the essence of who we are, and our raison d’être in the world.  And what is birth control—contraception—but a refusal of life, a rejection, a manipulation, a degradation and an abuse of human life and human sexuality.

Inwardly, religiously, we understand ourselves to be engaged in a cosmic battle between the forces of life and love on the one hand, and death and destruction on the other.  Jesus has rescued us from death.  Now our mission is to “make a return,” by fostering a culture of life and building a civilization of love.  That’s the over-arching purpose of our lives; we strive to make it the theme of all our individual acts.

The first principle of that program, laid down by St. Augustine (and Hippocrates before him), is “Do no harm.”  We can’t do good by committing evil. No matter how noble our goal, it’s not okay to hurt persons as a means of achieving it.  We can’t collude with wrong; we can’t subsidize the objectification of women and other injuries to the dignity of persons; we can’t facilitate the killing of innocents; we can’t betray our central vocation.

When the federal government uses the force of law to mandate that Catholic institutions and businesses provide birth control and sterilizations and abortifacient drugs to their employees, it is, in effect, seeking to conscript the Church into the service of the culture of death as a condition of our participation in society. It is no side issue.  It is no glancing blow.  It is a stake aimed at the very heart of Catholic life.

If we are serious about our mission and identity as Catholics, we must stand against this evil much more forcefully than we have up to now.  The time is very short.

Katie van Schaijik


Katie van Schaijik is the co-founder (with her husband Jules) of The Personalist Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to the spread of Christian personalism.

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  • respectlife

    Unfortunately the message is not getting out at our churches. I have yet to hear a homily on the religious freedom we are losing and yet we hear many messages on the importance of “common good”. Our Beloved Pope John Paul II spoke about this very issue. Without life it is impossible to have “common good”. This is the core of the teachings of the Church. May God help us in these times and may the Holy Spirit touch the hearts of our Priests and Church leaders so we can be united again with Christ and His Church.

    • pleasethink

      We have all seen the failure of the churches to be specific about this evil (contraception) and there are various reasons: Poor formation right from the beginning when a seminarian has gone to a “liberal” seminary, fear of sticking out and letting the chips fall where they may and in the case here in Canada, the Winnipeg Statement seems to hold some kind of infallible quality for bishops here and duck-taped their mouths against speaking the truth. Sounds harsh, but I have been waiting my whole married life (we were Pro-life and teaching NFP when we were married,more than 25 years ago, and for that, marginalized, not taken seriously in our own church) to hear bishops tell their priests to preach this incredibly relevant topic.

      If we have to start somewhere, and find a place in the burned-out charred remains, it has to be the priests leading. After trying from a lay point of view for so many years I can say that it takes the leadership of the priest to convince Catholics firmly that this is the only way our church will survive and flourish again. And we need to suggest to priests that aren’t adequately informed, of solid informational material they can use. I highly recommend a book put out by (I think ,billings, USA, I can’t find my copy right now…) BOMA which is a series of essays and sermons by NFP bishops and priests from United States (mostly ) and Canada, called A Preachable Message!! It is brilliant and so inspiring. Many conversion stories, also. The point of the book is that it is a VERY preachable message, and they give resources in the back to show how this message can fit into all seasons of the liturgical calendar. There is literally not one single Sunday that is inappropriate to preach this. And the other point of the book is that it needs to start NOW!

      We can all quote the wonderful and inspiring things the Popes have said, and we know categorically what is wrong, so now is the time to do something!!I think these Bishops and priests need to have our support and need to know this message is desperately needed! We can pray for the clergy but we also need to speak to them if we have more knowledge than fellow parishioners (who remain ignorant.) People (including Catholics) are very much immersed in the selfish, instant-gratification and even angry culture so it will take some determined preaching on the part of the priests! And may God richly bless those who are already doing this very lonely work!

      • Ford Oxaal

        Apparently, from reading the posts here, including the one on the “Truce of 1968”, it’s not enough for many priests and bishops to have clear, simple, unambiguous teaching on the subject: sex is at least partly for making babies (duh) — if you intend to eliminate the possibility of making a baby, but engage in the marital act, then you have sinned. Apparently Pope Paul VI was not joking around with his smoke of Satan comment. I just can’t believe such an obvious ploy as sexual immorality through contraception, gift wrapped “Compliments of Satan”, can actually sell to priests and bishops. This is why we never hear about it from the pulpit. Meanwhile, for every contracepted marital act lurks an openess to abortion.

  • Bill

    It’s very hard to make a successful argument against contraception. I don’t think that either this article, sincere though it is, or Humanae Vitae succeed in doing so. For many who oppose contraception, the true problem is that they are anti-sex, not prolife. They feel nobody should have sex, ever, outside marriage, and that covering contraception is the same thing as advocating free sex. They even want to control the sex lives of married people, insisting that a 48-year-old woman has no excuse for sex unless she’s prepared to have a Down’s Syndrome child. We’re all free to be as chaste and as abstinent and as faithful to our spouses as we choose. We are not free to impose our own choices about such a private area of our lives onto others. I have heard it said that it is immoral to force people to pay taxes because it forces others into charity. It has been said that universal health care is immoral for the same reasons. Since the same group that opposes the HHS mandate tends to oppose tax hikes and universal health care, how do they reconcile these issues of control? That is, how can it be OK to control something as private as someone’s sexual choices, but not something as public as taxation and social support?

    • JP

      Go away Bill. And take your strawman with you.

    • Dave

      Whatever are you talking about?!? Who wants to control the sexual lives of anybody? Not us Catholics; we simply don’t want to PAY for it. Arguing that contraception is immoral doesn’t constitute CONTROLLING anything.

      As far as whether the Catholic argument against contraception is “successful” or not, that very much depends on how open the “eye of the beholder” is.

    • Bob

      HumanaevVitae does succeed in making a successful argument against contraception. You Bill, however, have decided to say “no” to the reason, beauty and logic of Humanae Vitae. That’s your choice. But by not following the teaching in the encyclical, you have also said no to the peace and joy of Christ contained within it.

    • Ford Oxaal

      There are many consensual sexual choices that are controlled, and rightfully so, by a well-functioning society. And yes, I am anti-sex in many ways — I don’t want to walk into a store with my nine year old child, and see material that causes a reasonable man (in the sense of the legal test) to breathe harder. To me, that is an assault of sorts, a tort. Anyway, contraception is to the sexual appetite as purging yourself is to the hunger appetite. I suppose that won’t convince you, but the argument is sound.

      • Adam_Baum

        And let’s not forget your nine-year old could be getting ready for her “wedding” to a middle-age man in some parts of the world.

    • David

      “… and that covering contraception is the same thing as advocating free sex.”

      Well, it’s certainly advocating sex without reproductive consequences. IMHO contraception is not really about ‘responsible family planning’ or ‘women’s health’ or ‘women’s rights’ or any of that. It’s really about getting to have sex when you want, where you want, with whomever you want – without reproductive consequences. Depending on the person, that may mean sex with a lot of people, or sex with one partner. In the end, it’s about having sex. My take on contraception is that I’m tired of the trumped-up rhetoric. I think less people would support it, or be so supportive of it, if we all just admitted plainly what it’s really about.

    • Adam_Baum

      “It’s very hard to make a successful argument against contraception.”

      Especially if you’ve pre-decided the issue. By the way, your prejudice against the value and dignity of people with Down’s Syndrome is repellant and disgusting.

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  • Ford Oxaal

    Contraception is at the root of our spiritual, moral, economic and cultural demise. It has sparked a trans-generational, nationwide orgy that has devastated the Christian family. This is beyond rational debate. And we all know the lone voice speaking against contraception: the Roman Catholic Church. I rest my case. Protestants: please take a look at the Catholic Church, from her own teachings. She is waiting patiently for you to come home to mama. If you do, you will be the spark that sets the whole world on fire with Christian renewal.

  • hombre111

    As a pastor, I never talked about contraception from the pulpit. But now that I am retired, I can cheerfully say that the Church’s teaching is baloney. It is not good moral thinking to take the most conservative, most rigid position on a debatable subject. Yes, prudential judgment applies to this subject as well. Right now, some moral theologians have begun to point out how tilted an argument is when it appeals to “intrinsically evil.” A typical example would be to make life tough on the poor. But then the conservatives jump in with their “prudential judgment” argument, which enables them to wiggle away from any real moral obligation to create structural change. Well, contraception is debated by many people of deep faith, and they do not have the same answers. A prudential judgment applies, and I don’t think any celibate,including myself, has a right to make the final argument in that discussion.

    • Ford Oxaal

      Ok, well what about the Church’s teaching on sexual morality in general? For example, would you also say that sexual intercourse outside of marriage is OK as long as the two individuals claim to love each other?

      • hombre111

        On this issue I am quite conservative. We have had enough trouble thanks to this kind of irresponsible behavior. When it comes to contraception, two prayerful, thoughtful adults should be able to make their own decision.

        • Ford Oxaal

          Thank you for your opinion on this. Back to contraception, wouldn’t any ordinary, married Catholic’s duty to obey the ordinary magisterium be greater than his/her competency to go against it? Wouldn’t the prudent course be to just go with the Church’s teaching here?

          • hombre111

            In the formation of a prayerful, adult conscience, we listen with respect to the voice of the Church. We have to try to respectfully understand the point that underlies the teaching. But three other factors are involved. 1) I want to do the will of God. I am not afraid to embrace the cross of Christ. I have great respect for human life. But, what is the best perspective from which to view this question? I do not believe that a celibate male has the best perspective, especially a celibate male like a pope, who has been sheltered from almost any aspect of ordinary pastoral life. Even Pope John Paul had minimal pastoral experience before he got on the hierarchy track and disappeared into la-la-land. 2) Was the Church’s decision based on the best information we have? The answer is no. There is new scientific information and there is a much wider anthropological understerstanding of the marital act. 3) How convincing is the logic upon which the decision was based? I think the logic is shakey. In natural law thinking, the foundational premise is without question: Do the good. But at least three or four logical steps are required before you get down to “contraception is intrinsically evil.” This answer is based on the supposed understanding of the formal cause of the act. The other part of the argument is based on final cause–ie, somehow, I know what God’s purpose is for this act. A pretty good leap. And a celibate male might not quite understand.

            • Adam_Baum

              I’m married, so you might not understand this-if a celibate male’s opinion is invalid that cuts both ways. Having grown up in the anything goes 70’s and 80’s, I’ve seen contraception at work. It cheapened sex, made it a weapon and an adventure in narcissism, deception and barrenness.

              I’ve often wondered what it’s like for the couple that contracepts for years, until they get around to having a late life “trophy child” and just one-and then some horrific crime or accident takes that child from them-that must be an awful, awful thing.

              • hombre111

                Thanks, and I respect your thoughtful opinion. I observed the 70’s and 80’s, which seemed to be more about irresponsible sex than contraceptive sex. Some of the best, loving, and most generous Catholics I have known over the years had a limited number of children, so they probably practiced some form of contraception. Most of those good and kind Catholics around you on Sunday practice contraception. They seem to have two to three children, but no more. I do admire your prayerful and generous approach to NFP, but it is not for everybody. God bless you and keep you close to his heart.

                • Adam_Baum

                  “Most of those good and kind Catholics around you on Sunday practice contraception. ”

                  Sorry, but if I’m supposed to be shocked by the prevalence of sin, I’m not. I was informed decades ago, by a more other orthodox priest, that in the course of hearing confessions-a priest would hear just about every sin, save murder in his first year. He heard that in Seminary, but didn’t really believe it until he experienced it.

              • Karen

                Your argument implies that parents of large families who lows a child don’t care about their loss because they have so many replacements.

            • Mom of jp

              My husband and I would never use birth control. Perhaps you have never associated yourself with people who are committed to being open to life and loving children. I see a serious difference in people’s marriages when this commitment to love is fully grasped. I am so grateful to the Church for such a tremendous gift for my family. We all fall short of the glory of God but I am certain our marriage would not have withstood our difficulties if we were too proud to follow the Church’s guidance on this. While I agree with this article, I think she is mistaken about being more outspoken and logical to change people’s minds on this issue. Prayer is the answer; God has to be the main convincer on this one. God convinced us and I thank Him.

              • hombre111

                Clearly, you have acted thoughtfully and prayerfully. I have been fully supportive of Natural Family Planning as well as people who see another way to answer the essential question. Both groups have produced some sound marriages and some questionable marriages. Each approach takes prayer and an opennes to God’s will. But I honestly think that, when Pope John Paul got to heaven, the first thing God said was welcome, my beloved son. The second thing he said was, why did you make things so hard for people.

                • Mom of jp

                  This is an area of life that one can directly apply Jesus’ words, “my yoke is heavy, my burden light.” Working with the body’s natural rhythms, feeling respected by my husband, communicating with him regularly!, feeling healthy because I know what is going on with my body, being grateful for each child, one with Down Syndrome, because we welcomed each one. We never developed that contraceptive mentality toward new life. Conversely I think that it could be very difficult to contracept, in particular for the wife: the woman has to take the hormones, have devices implanted on and on. Yuck! What a lie women have been told, what a slavery. We named our son John Paul after JPII and if I get to meet him in Heaven I will thank him. Love and Responsibility, Gospel of Life, the works that led to Theology of the Body, The Dignity of Women, and so much more. I could have reading and meditation material for the next fifty plus years! John Paul II was devoted to Mary and that love and growth in understanding spilled over into a love and understanding for all women.

                  • Adam_Baum

                    “Conversely I think that it could be very difficult to contracept, in particular for the wife:”

                    It’s a piece of cake if you ignore the inconvenience and the fact that any agent powerful enough to reorder a healthy functioning reproductive system is powerful enough to produce things like cancer and cardiac disease-you know the warnings they breeze through when they are making those slick ads showing the young barbie dolls comparing their contraceptives while shopping for shoes.

                  • hombre111

                    Good. You respond with an adult conscience. Let other people live by their prayerfully formed adult consciences..

                • Bob

                  Because the road back to Christ is so narrow……sorry hombre111, I’ll take JPII’s thought process over yours. My wife and I follow the Church’s teaching on contraception, and find that we are far more closer to Christ then when we were contracepting years ago. Looking back now, and using the pill, we can see the difference. Then, we were far from Christ……now following the Catholic Church’s teaching on contraception, we Are truly closer to Jesus. That clear, that simple.

                  • hombre111

                    Good, thoughtful post. I think you did what Pope Paul VI advised you to do. If you read Humanae Vitae all the way through, you know that, in the second part of the letter, he gave some pastoral advice to parents and pastors. To the parents he said something like this: If you are practicing contraception, pray to understand the wisdom of what the Church is teaching. In the meantime, keep going to confession and communion. To priests, he said, more or less: If someone comes to you and confesses that he is using contraception, tell him to pray to understand the Church’s teaching. And tell him to keep going to confession and communion.

                    Now, that is fascinating. Keep going to confession and communion. If contraception was a mortal sin, the pope could not have said such a thing. A priest cannot say such a thing. And so, at most, contraception is a veniel sin. It may be an “intrinsic evil,” but it does not have the intrinsic evil, say, of killing innocent people, as we routinely do in Pakistan with our drones.

                    One last thought. Are your child-bearing years mostly behind you? You use the expression “years ago.” Have you had all the children you wanted to have? Then using NFP does not exactly strike me as the moral high ground.

                    • Bob

                      Nope…..child bearing years are not behind, by any distance. We have three children, and discern and pray to what God’s will is. What we have found by following His will (instead of ours), we are far, far more happier and at peace then we thought we could be. That is the grace of following Church teaching on not only contraception but other teachings. Our Trust in God has grown more and more. Quite simply, Church teaching is God’s will, not ours. Follow it and you will be happy in His love.

                      But hombre100, why do you choose to feed at the cafeteria, and pick and choose what teaching to follow? When the Church teaches you that consecrated bread and wine truly becomes Christ’s body and blood (difficult teaching requiring a leap of faith), I’m assuming you believe that……but you choose to not believe that contraception is against God’s will? I find that strange.

                    • hombre111

                      I respect and admire your thoughtful, prayerful choice. I was a young priest when Humanae Vitae came out. Didn’t find it convincing then, don’t find it convincing now, for reasons I have explained above in this post. So, I prayerfully follow my own conscience on this matter. As I also said above, I did not express my opinion on this publicly when I was a pastor. But when people asked my opinion privately on the subject, I told them to be prayerful, accept the realiy of the cross, and follow their consciences. Life is hard enough.

                    • Bob

                      Do you worry that you’ve led some of your flock over the cliff, and your picking and choosing Church teaching could lead to your own damnation? Also, because you are agreeable to contraception (which includes the widely used pill), how do you feel about breakthrough pregnanancy with the pill and possibly the couples you told that pill use is OK that could have had as many as three abortions with the pill?

                    • Diogenes

                      Unfortunately, hombre111 has distorted what the Pope actually said in Humanae Vitae about receiving communion. Here are the Pope’s actual words (per the Vatican web site translation):

                      For this reason husbands and wives should take up the burden appointed to them, willingly, in the strength of faith and of that hope which “does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Then let them implore the help of God with unremitting prayer and, most of all, let them draw grace and charity from that unfailing fount which is the Eucharist. If, however, sin still exercises its hold over them, they are not to lose heart. Rather must they, humble and persevering, have recourse to the mercy of God, abundantly bestowed in the Sacrament of Penance.

                    • hombre111

                      If you would read the last sentence above, you would realize that you are making my point. In his advice to priests, the Pope said this: Teach married couples the indispensable way of prayer; prepare them to have recourse often and with faith to the sacraments of the Eucharist and of Penance, without ever allowing themselves to be discouraged by their own weakness.
                      In other words, tell them, even in the midst of practicing birth control, to keep going to confession and Communion, praying to finally understand God’s will on this matter. If they were routinely committing mortal sin, I could not tell them this. I would have to tell them to stop, period, and I could not give them absolution if the practice continued.

                • Mark

                  Maybe you should be more concerned with what God is going to say to you on your judgement day.

                  • hombre111

                    He would say, in union with his Son, “I am glad you refused to put huge bundles on the shoulders of other people, without considering their ability to carry them. It is mercy I required, no sacrifice.”

            • Ford Oxaal

              But still, if an ordinary married Catholic who wants to use contraception did not have the time to study these complex points, would you advise he/she do what he/she desires anyway, or rather, in this case, go with the Church’s teaching?

              • hombre111

                Again, based on some of the beautiful, Christ-like, and loving couples that I have known with their two or three kids, they would have said that it was the Church’s teaching that was complex and dificult to understand.

                • Ford Oxaal

                  Well your position on this is an interesting subject to me, because as a convert from Episcopalianism, I see this logic leading to a sort of solidarity against this or that teaching of the Church. And it helps to explain how it is the Church can seem to remain silent on this subject. As a final question on the authority subject — would you be persuaded by and ex cathedra type pronouncement? At any rate, on the contraception topic, there are those who are making up for the lack of a replacement population. My oldest daughter married a fellow with 100 first cousins, and she already has four of her own. I jokingly call it “Catholic Darwinism”. Be afraid! And I sincerely thank you for sharing your thoughts!

                • Adam_Baum

                  Now where have I heard this thing about “this is a hard teaching”…

                • Mom of jp

                  That is why they need courageous priests. That is why priests need courageous lay people. Our jobs are to help eachother to Heaven. And a point that I failed to make is that one cannot be open to life if they contracept…did these couples leave that vow out of their weddings?

            • BM

              “And a celibate male might not quite understand.” If he is guided by the Holy Spirit, he will.

              Moreover, the good of something is its proper act. What the proper act is of generating organs is known to any adult with a brain. The purpose is known.

              There are real and perplexing difficulties with the universal condemnation of contraception considered from a natural law standpoint. The objections you level, however, are not among them, and only muddy the waters.

              • rsmyth75

                agreed BM! Father’s logic is as idiotic as saying I’m not a drug addict so i might not understand that taking drugs is wrong and dangerous.

        • Adam_Baum

          See the legacy of your pusillanimous preaching:

          A cratering birthrate and a 40% illegitimacy rate.

          Yeah, I know it wasn’t just you-but every drop complains its not part of the flood.

      • Tout

        FORD God does not allow sexual intercourse outside of marriage

        • Ford Oxaal

          And where do you stand on contraception?

    • Adam_Baum

      With every post, I find you to be a greater and greater fraud. What you should do is repudiate every aspect of this “baloney” church and begin returning your pension checks and any other means of support provided to you.

    • Bernadette

      If you don’t agree with the Church’s teaching, why would you be a Catholic priest? Doesn’t make any sense.

    • You have a problem. You forget that from the earliest days the Church was against contraception. Oh, I don’t mean all. Judge Noonan’s book mades it clear that there has always been confusion on the point. But more to the point is that the contraceptive mentality, which developed from the habit of using contrceptives, gradually poisons our minds against the bearing of children. It is the gateway drug to sexuality morality, and of course to abortion. For the early Christians, the abandonment of pagan sexual morality, was like the drunkard’s abandonment of booze. Conraception was only part of it, and a minor part. But reminds the converts at Corinth how one can slip back into the pit, and the just one drink, one small sin, means soon we forget Christ. You are saying in effect to the poor in Corinth, well, yes, Do expose your infants. Do throw them into the sea, or leave them in the streets for the dogs and high to devour. But of course the real demand is that they turn to the Church, to their spititual family for help. Poverty is indeed caused by maldistribution, but the state is never going to fix that problem. No way. The ancient athenians went from a benevolent tyrant to his vicious son, to democracy, but in the end, they lost their way. Politics is like a child’s game; the players are always making up new rules, so that the strongest and cleverest and most sociable end up winning. As you have never played the game, you won’t know that. So shut up.

      • hombre111

        Your argument is a big leap from throwing babies into the sea to arguing that the human soul begins with conception. If that is true, God is the biggest contracepter of them all, because a vast number of fertilized eggs pass through the woman’s body and she doesn’t even know it.
        As for shutting up. On this site, at least, somebody has to speak up for all those good Catholics sitting next to you in church, people I have come to know as loving and generous and filled with life and hope. Are you superior to them? Don’t think so.

        • BM

          You love to commit the fallacy of the accident. This sophistry occurs in almost every argument you put forward. Those Catholics sitting next to me in church who contracept are by that very fact (per se) not good; they are likely in mortal sin, receiving communion and further compounding their sin. Doing some other good (per accidens) doesn’t destroy the fact.

          It’s easy to be filled with “life” and “hope” when you fit in with the world. It’s easy to go with the flow; every contracepting atheist I know is “filled with life and hope”.

          Besides, if not using contraception is too hard on people, as your other posts imply, then Christ is too hard on people, since he condemned all sex, even non-contraceptive kind, outside of marriage. A fortiori…. If all singles have to abstain completely, the least a married couple can do is limit themselves somewhat.

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  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    Am I alone in finding an eerie similarity between the “Truce of 1968,” as George Weigal calls it, when the Congregation for the Clergy decreed that Cardinal O’Boyle of Washington should lift canonical penalties against those priests whom he had disciplined for their public dissent from Humanae Vitae and the “Peace of Clement IX” during the Jansenist controversy?

    In both cases, after the Church had been riven by a decade-long dispute, a papal document was issued that was intended to be definitive.

    In both cases, the original quarrel was immediately forgotten and argument raged over the scope of papal authority to decide the question. In the Jansenist case, peace, of a sort, was achieved, when Pope Clement IX brokered an agreement that neither side would argue the question, at least, from the pulpit.

    The “Peace of Clement IX” lasted for about 35 years and ended in 1705 when Clement XI declared the clergy could no longer hide behind “respectful silence.” Eventually, in 1713, he issued Unigenitus and demanded the subscription of the clergy to it. There was enormous resistance, with bishops and priests appealing to a future Council (and being excommunicated for their pains, in 1718). As late as 1756, dissenters were still being denied the Last Rites.

    Will the “Truce of 1968” end in a similar fashion?

    • Ford Oxaal

      At some point, one has to either be willing to submit to the teaching of the Church, or to stop receiving her benefits. It will be interesting to see how the Church puts the sex genie back in the bottle.

  • Tom ATK

    NFP is no different from other forms non-abortificant birth control (BC), technically. They are all artificially created barriers. NFP uses time as barrier. The big difference between NFP and other methods is the attitude. People that practice NFP accept that if they become pregnant, they keep the child. That attitude needs to be taught for all forms of BC. BC is not going away. The Church needs to address this issue head on, to dissociate BC, as a sin, from abortion, as an intrinsic evil. But this will take courage, and intellect, something lacking these days.

    Abortion is about change of hearts. People tend to focus on the extremes, but the fact is that >99% of abortions are done as a back up, when BC fails. Less than 1%
    are because of forced intercourse.

    One problem is that even if Roe Vs Wade is repealed (as it should), a strictly legislative strategy will not be the answer either. Does any one really expect that 100’s of thousands teenagers/young adults will be put in jail each year because they had abortions?

    Another problem is that people in general do not acknowledge the fact that no birth control is 100% effective. None. But that is not what people are told by those that provide BC. So when people become pregnant, then what? They panic (“oh my gosh, I/you are pregnant, how could that be?” answer: “you had sex, you moron”), and chose abortion. The Church does not address this issue, and the Church should.

    People should be taught that if they are going to use birth control, to acknowledge the simple fact that it is never 100% effective, and to take the responsibility, if pregnant, to keep the baby, if need be give it up to adoption. The stigma of teenage or young adult out of wed lock pregnancy is long gone. Young people should be taught to make that decision before even thinking of having sex. This is what needs to be taught in schools. The idea that sex is procreative above all is simple 101 biology.

    • Ford Oxaal

      The difference is that at the center of NFP is abstinence.

    • Mom of jp

      I like the analogy of invitations. NFP is not sending the invite whereas contraception is sending a note to someone saying they are not welcome to come. One can still be open to life and use NFP, the couple has to discern regularly…each day, each month. Whereas the poor wife gets put on medication or has some device implanted and the subject is closed, pretty much. Or they use something not very effective or they sterilize. In any case NFP is safer and helps attitudes develop to be more open to life.

  • Yes, the time is very short, and we have no time for anything but the TRUTH, all of it. We need to be informed and to make concrete plans to act immediately to learn more about our religion and to know God through His Word, to put Him First and live in, by and for Him. We need to know and use the Sacraments, the sacramentals, and decide for holiness. Our churches will thrive when we put our hearts on the line and give of ourselves. The world will improve…even the sciences…and unbelievers will open their eyes. When we know what God intends and desires and want the same the whole world will change. Carol Dixon Klein

    • mikehorn

      This is perhaps a fine start for entering the “marketplace of ideas” with compelling arguments that will either persuade or not on their merits.

      Keep in mind that our elected leaders swear to support and defend the Constitution, which is definitely not equal to supporting and defending the Church – we are not even a Christian nation and until recently were not even a significant Catholic nation (took Irish, Eastern European, and Hispanic immigration waves for that). Even Catholic elected leaders have sworn a legally and ethically binding Oath that obligates them in ways that either go beyond or sometimes supersede their personal religious beliefs. One stark example: a Catholic priest serving as a military chaplain must be able to minister to soldiers according to the soldier’s belief system, not the priest’s. Even in the extreme case of battlefield death, if the priest knows the soldier is not Catholic, he is forbidden to give that soldier Last Rights because of the nature of his Constitutional Oath that supersedes his Holy Orders in this case. Similarly, a Hindu or Muslim chaplain would either be obligated to perform Last Rights or actively arrange for a priest to do so at the soonest opportunity. This is an example of the “free exercise” clause, where the Chaplain as a military officer is obligated to provide the opportunity to worship as the soldier deems fit, not as the chaplain deems fit.

  • mikehorn

    “It’s About Contraception” is something the Church should consider both ways. There is a conflict that includes contraception, but is bound up between the concept of obedience to an authority the average lay person had no choice in empowering (all clergy, including the Pope), and the Western concept of individual liberty, and the idea that each person has the capability to decide for themselves on a whole range of moral and ethical issues. We call this democracy, and it is based on Enlightenment philosophies that the Church hasn’t really come to terms with yet. An American Catholic is more likely to accept as fact that they are able to make their own choices that might be informed by the Church but are not bound by some far away celibate male who never had to work at earning respect in a Western sense. The Church’s hard-line stance doesn’t sit well with Americans because the Church is trying to push it as a matter of obedience, and isn’t doing a good job at all with a convincing argument entered into the American “Marketplace of Ideas”. Most American Catholics don’t buy the Vatican’s argument, and now the Bishops are trying to push it through lawsuits, regulation, and legislation? This smacks of hubris and contempt towards the average voter, which goes a long way towards explaining why they Bishops never convinced their own flock. The most recent Judicial ruling had the court nearly laughing away the Bishop’s argument, saying there is no real difference between providing insurance that covers contraception and providing a paycheck that is then used for contraception. In essence, the court said that obedience to the Vatican does not trump Western law and the Western ideals of economics and personal liberty.

    If it is indeed, all about contraception, the Church might want to consider how they will stand when they lose this argument, which in any real sense they already have. This will severely weaken the Church. The demographics say that the only reason Catholics remain the single largest sect (followed by the non-religious) is due to hispanic immigration, which is heavily Catholic. Those who have been here longer are leaving the Church in droves, and things like this are driving them away.

    • NFPNotes

      Yes, one of the problems with the Church’s teaching is that it has been presented as a concept of obedience, which, not surprisingly, for most modern western Catholics isn’t good enough.

      But properly understood, it is a positive thing for women and a positive thing for couples. I never understood the purpose and reasoning behind the Church’s teaching until I read it presenting as a matter of women’s health from a feminist perspective in a popular secular book.

      • mikehorn

        No citation for the book. The Church’s teachings aren’t accurate in an objective sense, removing any moral consideration. For instance, rates of some cancers are highest among women who never get pregnant and who never use the Pill. This means that there is a valid medical reason to have Catholic nuns on the pill at least once or twice in their lifetime in order to prevent cancer. And no, there is no significant link between the Pill and breast cancer; that claim is based on an old study that suggested a correlation for further study, and further study showed that there was nothing there. I’d hazard a guess that your “secular” perspective isn’t overly accurate, either.

        Actuarial tables show that contraception used by couples combined with having children is better economically, which leads to more education, resources, and opportunity for the children of that couple. That is hard fact.

        • Ford Oxaal

          Maybe it leads to lonlier children — whose nearest siblings are many years apart. I remember when my wife quit work, our income halved, and our standard of living went up ten times. We had a home for the first time instead of a perpetual Chinese firedrill.

        • NFPNotes

          Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. 882 5-star reviews on Amazon and counting.

    • Ford Oxaal

      The Roman Catholic Church is ultimately infallible in her teachings on faith and morals. She alone stands against contraception, and the massive sexual immorality it has fostered. The teaching is plain and simple: sex is for husband and wife to make babies, and is illicit otherwise. If American Catholics want to reject her teachings, then they put their souls in grave danger. On the religious liberty issue, I think the deck is stacked in the Church’s favor with the Roberts ruling on Obamacare, laughing judges notwithstanding. I even think Ginsburg is onboard with this.

      • mikehorn

        Your first statement is an unfounded assertion that is both inaccurate from a Catholic perspective and not compelling from a non-Catholic perspective. The Church is only considered infallible in certain specific circumstances. For centuries priests could get married, for instance. Peter, the first Pope, was married (see Mark and Luke). Things change. From a non-Catholic perspective, the idea that these priests are somehow innately infallible in their teaching is laughable, absurd, and ultimately arrogant; don’t bother using that argument with anyone who is not Catholic. American ideals contradict the notion that anyone can be infallible, which is fundamentally anathema to the idea of universal human equality and democratic rule. This speaks to the heart of why a religious argument against contraception is a losing argument in America. Whose religion wins? Catholics are the largest sect in America, but still only represent a minority and even of that number not all are agreed, since roughly half think abortion should be legal and more than half have no problem with contraception. The next largest religious group, nearly 20%, are non-believers, to include atheists.

        The judicial argument is meaningless. An employer has no legal basis to dictate how employees use their compensation after the benefits have changed hands. Since insurance is considered part of the benefits package that includes salary, vacation, etc, then it should be treated in the same category. An employer cannot tell me how to spend my paycheck, and for the same reason cannot dictate the terms of my health insurance. Now both are required by law and should be treated the same.

        • Ford Oxaal

          Actually, the doctrine of infallibility (which has nothing to do with the disciplinary matter of priestly celibacy) makes complete sense, and merely says that the Pope, when speaking from the Chair of St. Peter, on the subject of faith and morals, in a defining matter, and addressed to the entire faithful, is preserved from error (this is off the cuff, so please see for more info). If the Pope babbled on about baseball in the same “ex cathedra” pronouncement, that would be portion would be severable from the defining statements, and not considered infallible (further narrowing the already narrow scope of this gift). Without disrespect to St. Peter, the Rock, it’s the least Christ could do, after handing over the keys to a guy who once denied Him three times. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church is a perpetual miracle — that it can stick to its teachings century after century, unchanged, is unprecedented in history. So when the Pope comes out with encyclicals on the subject of contraception, even natural reason says you should listen. You might learn something incredibly valuable to your eternal happiness.

          On the judicial thing, the issue is whether the government can compel the purchase of certain products and services. If I am an employer who does not want to purchase a health insurance plan which provides for something I consider unconscionable or immoral, then I can’t be compelled to purchase that plan. Statists think the state *can* compel you to do the will of the state in matters normally reserved for your particular faith, or even your individual conscience, to determine.

          • mikehorn

            The Church argument is based on several religious assertions that would need to be argued logically prior to anyone but a Catholic accepting them. Since the USA is not a Catholic nation, the arguments don’t work for the matter of law. No, I am not required to listen to any Pope or priest when they is clearly wrong. Since Catholic teaching on contraception is either outdated (1960’s) or incorrect on their factual assumptions (claims on condom effectiveness are based on pre-WWII non-regulated products, for instance), then I am within my rights to say the Pope and the priests are incorrect, and that their arguments are so factually and willfully wrong as to constitute false-witness. Liars for Christ, is the common label I’ve heard.

            And no, the Church has not remained consistent over the years. It corrects itself, which is a point in its favor, but those corrections are often a long time coming. John Paul II apologizing for how the Church was willfully, blatantly, dangerously wrong concerning Galileo didn’t help the man much, since it happened hundreds of years after his death. But they did reverse themselves, finally, after centuries of evidence built up to show how wrong they were.

            The state can compel you to do all sorts of things. It can compel you to pay your employees a minimum wage, to contribute to social safety nets, to comply with workplace and product safety regulations… Since healthcare is definitely part of the “general welfare” and “interstate commerce” (though the current SCOTUS is skeptical on that one as the law is phrased), and “taxation” (which SCOTUS approved Obamacare because of), then the state most definitely CAN compel you. You pay your taxes or you pay the legal consequences. You produce a toxic product for sale, you are liable for damages. Healthcare is a money saver in the long-run because it affects productivity directly, not to mention how it affects the ability of children to grow up healthy and learn effectively in order for the future economy to function better than today’s.

            Your employees have the right to spend their wages as they see fit, the funds coming straight from the company that employs them. The connection to health insurance from either a company or an insurance provider is much more tenuous than wages, considering not all employees will use any contraception benefit. The precedent is the same, though, in that the employer has no right to compel employees to live as the employer’s religion dictates – that is so theocratic I don’t know where to begin. Religious discrimination in the workplace is illegal, and the way the law is written, that prevents employers from discriminating against their employees. If I choose to take my wages and buy some porn or contribute to a group such as Freedom From Religion Foundation or similar that oppose any sort of theocratic push and most recently oppose the Catholic Bishops trying to dictate law, my employer has no right to prevent me spending my wages in that way. Similarly, my employer has no right to even inquire how my doctor treats me or my family for anything because medical treatment and records are confidential. To allow an employer to specifically forbid coverage for religious reasons? I’ll fight you on that one, hard.

            • Ford Oxaal

              Nobody is trying to tell you how to spend your money. That’s not an issue. The Catholic Bishops, like you, also don’t want to be told how to spend their money. So we’re all in the same boat here. All the Church does is try to point you to what is just and holy so that you don’t suffer eternal damnation. The Church can’t force you to listen to her. But once again, you should listen to what she says, not what some pamphlet says she says. Try Also I would recommend I found out that everything I had ever been told about the Church by non-Catholics, and a lot of Catholics as well, was false. But with the web, it is a lot easier to cut through the misinformation.

              I am guessing you think the Church told Galileo that the sun goes around the earth. If it had, which it didn’t, but if it had, it would not be covered by infallibility, because infallibility only works for faith and morals, and not astronomy. What the Church has not changed on are the important things — the Deposit of Faith — what was known to the apostles. We have the Apostle’s Creed, for example, which remains unchanged, and which is just about everything you need to believe to be a Catholic. If you are a non-Catholic Christian, it is probably not far from what you believe. Peace of Christ!

  • NFPNotes

    A few notes:

    First, the topic of contraception makes celibate priests INCREDIBLY uncomfortable. They know they aren’t married and they know they are going to get it from SOMEONE after mass, either a young woman who believes that the Church is anti-woman or a couple who struggled with the method.

    So it is up to the married couples in the parish to spread the word.

    Second, there is a huge moral difference between prescription contraception (hormonal contraception/IUD) and sterilization vs. barrier contraception (condoms).

    The first is harming the body for sex. We don’t think of it this way, but that’s what it is. A person who uses prescription contraception or resorts to sterilization chemically, biomechanically, or surgically takes a healthy reproductive system and makes it not function. This a form of self-mutilation, which goes against the fifth commandment as well as being contraception.

    Barrier contraception is not licit, but at least it is not unhealthy. Furthermore, prescription contraception is a constant lifestyle choice, while barrier contraception is a series of discrete acts.

    Plus, a couple CAN combine barrier contraception with NFP, and non-Catholic users often do so. Couples who refuse to give up contraception should be encouraged to chart and use barriers as an alternative to prescription contraception. Perhaps they will see how disappointing the contraceptive encounters are in comparison. Even if they do not, they are still in a better situation.

    Third, it is ESSENTIAL that Catholics who promote NFP treat it as serious science. There are some Catholic NFP promoters who are teaching obsolete methods and/or spreading incorrect information. This is unacceptable, and couples are needlessly suffering as a result.

    Fourth, The teaching is absolutely correct, but its presentation has been extremely poor even among the “faithful”. Marital chastity is about building a stronger marriage, it is not about following a series of rules under pain of hellfire. It is a positive teaching, but it is not an easy one. It does take work and a lot of personal and spiritual growth and this should be acknowledged. Couples who are trying should be encouraged, not judged for their failures.

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  • All4Him

    Thanks for the well-written article which was spot-on.

  • F.Nazar

    Good article!
    the real root of the problem is lust
    you might be interested in reading this:

    Social consequences of contraception

    Cohabs dirty little secret

  • Indeed

    How about framing it this way:

    There is now a religious test for business ownership:

    1. If you are a Catholic, you may not own a business, or operate a charitable organization, with more than 49 employees…unless you are willing to abandon the moral dictates of your faith.

    2. If you are a Catholic, you may not own or do much work in a business in the health insurance industry…unless you are willing to abandon the moral dictates of your faith.

    That is, after all, the reality.

    If you are a Catholic who is obedient to the moral dictates of your faith, and you own or operate a business or charitable organization with 50+ employees, you will be fined punitively until you either abandon your morality, or until you go out of business, or until you downsize to less than 50 employees.

    And if you are a Catholic who is obedient to the moral dictates of your faith, and you try to offer health insurance products to the public (or your own employees), you will be fined punitively until you either abandon your morality, or go out of business.

    So that is the new meaning of “free exercise of religion” in America: A big sign on large parts of the economy which says “CATHOLICS NEED NOT APPLY.”

    And of course, let’s don’t forget: While evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants, and Orthodox Jews, typically don’t object to barrier contraception as Catholics do, they do typically object to abortifacients.


    I don’t think we’ll all be wearing yellow stars and crosses any time soon.

    But it’s a troubling turn-of-events nonetheless.

  • NormChouinard

    This is a great review today for those who only present the Hobby Lobby decision as a victory for religious freedom. Today we hear clearly Justice Ginsburg and the ACLU’s rationale for contraception and precious little from the Catholic understanding of the Theology of the Body. This is the teaching moment of a lifetime.