When in high school, I often thought about what my life would be like as an adult. I pictured what most people do: I'd get married, enjoy married life for a few years, then have a few children.
Using contraception was a give in. Of course I would use it. Until, of course, my husband and I carefully decided when the right time for us to have children would be. Why wouldn't we use it? Enjoy all the benefits of sex without having to worry about getting pregnant! It sounded great to me.
It was not until about a year after high school that I discovered the Catholic Church teaches that contraception in any form is morally wrong. And, just so we're clear, contraception means anything that inhibits conception of a baby during sex: withdrawl method, barriers (condoms and diaphragms), hormonal pills, shots, or other types of contraceptive medicine. What??!! The thought struck me as crazy. Everyone uses contraception. They call it "safe sex" for a reason. What did the Church expect us to do? Pop out as many children as humanly possible?
I then discovered Trent was becoming Catholic, which took me greatly by surprise. I started talking to him about it, and asking why he made that decision. He sent me a series of CD's called "Naked Without Shame," which were talks given by Christopher West about St. (It's so awesome to be able to call him that now!!!!!) John Paul II's work on something called "The Theology of the Body". I listened to all of them. And I was completely blown away and amazed by the message I received.
It talked about how God created us all in His image. We are good. Our bodies are good. Sex is good. However, because of the fall of Adam and Eve, we now struggle with concupiscence, which is the tendency toward sin. What is the first thing that happened when Adam and Eve sinned? They realized they were naked. And they were ashamed.
It should not be this way. In the beginning, Adam saw Eve: all of her. He did not look at her naked body with lust. Rather, he saw it as one of the most beautiful things of all God's creation. He was awed by her. He desired her, yes. But in a good, holy, and wonderful way.
Unfortunately, though, Adam and Eve did sin. And we don't live in a perfect world anymore. Why do we need to wear clothes? To protect ourselves. Because if we didn't, most people would look at us with lust. They wouldn't see our bodies as a beautiful creation of God. They would see it with one thing in mind: self gratification.
Contraception is nothing new. People have been using it in one way or another since they figured out how babies are made. But in the 1950's, something revolutionary happened. A "magic pill" was created that would essentially free women from their own bodies. They could have all the sex they wanted with NO consequences! No babies! Fewer STDs! It was a feminist's dream. In 1960, the pill was approved for contraceptive use. By 1963, almost 2.3 million women in the United States used it.
Many feminists admire Margaret Sanger, an activist who greatly advocated the use of all forms of birth control. Sanger's goal was to make it possible for all women to have control over their own reproduction and bodies. She claimed that contraception would eliminate the problem of women being used as objects of lust.
I propose that contraception does the complete opposite. When you take away the procreative part of sex, what does that leave you with? The pleasure. Believe me, I am not trying to say that pleasure in sex is a bad thing. God created it, therefore it is good. But when you separate the pleasure from the procreation, there is a problem. You are essentially using your spouse as a means for your own satisfaction. You are telling your spouse that you love her whole body...except for her fertility. You are telling God that you'd rather take His creation and only accept the parts that are convenient for you.
Here's the biggest problem I have (and the Church has) with contraception: It views fertility and children as a disease. The Catholic Church is all about medicine. In fact, many of the major scientific breakthroughs in the past (rabies and anthrax vaccine, penicillin, etc) were discovered by devout Catholics. But here's the thing: we only encourage medicine that helps the body do what it is meant to do. We would all laugh if a scientist came out with a miracle drug that could make you blind. We would think it was crazy if people started taking a pill that would suppress their kidneys from functioning correctly. Why is it, then, that it's suddenly "great" that we have the means to stop our reproductive organs from working? Whether that be through a pill, barrier, or other methods? It's not great. It's scary. And the fact that our society has not only accepted this as normal, but also now made it mandatory for everyone to have access to this, is beyond frightening to me.
Did you know?
Not one Christian Church or denomination accepted any form of contraception as morally permissible before 1930. Starting that year, the Anglican Church began accepting contraception. Soon after, most Christian Churches followed. In the present day, the Catholic Church is one of the only Christian churches that has remained true to its original teaching, despite heavy societal pressuresDid you know?
Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, pushed hard for contraception to be available for all. Part of her philosophy behind this was to create a purer human race. Her goal was to "assist the race toward the elimination of the unfit." This included handicapped people and racial minorities. She also wanted mandatory sterilization for the mentally challenged, to keep the "undeniably feeble-minded" from procreating.Did you know?
One of the active ingredients in most hormonal contraceptives is estrogen, which has been classified by the World Health Organization as a Class 1 carcinogen. What’s a Class 1 carcinogen, you ask? It’s a chemical with sufficient evidence proving it’s carcinogenicity to humans. Other chemicals that share this distinction are arsenic, asbestos, silica dust, and tobacco. Another chemical that is in Depo Provera (the shot) is depo-medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) which has been linked with a 2.2 increase in breast cancer. (source)
St. John Paul II, with his accessible explanations on the teachings about the beauty of sex and marriage, changed my life. He changed my husband's life. He changed the lives of countless individuals. He is more than a Pope to me, and more than a Saint. I've never met him or even seen him in person, but I feel as though I know him.
Because of him, my husband and I have the knowledge that so many people do not have. We understand that not using contraception is sometimes a very difficult thing to do. But it has made our marriage so much more beautiful and whole. When we made our marriage vows, that we would give all of ourselves to each other, we meant them. And we relive those vows over and over in our marriage. It is our greatest wish that others will ponder this beautiful command that Christ gave us. To be open to life. To experience sex in the way it was meant to be experienced.
Instead of casting this aside and forgetting about it, like I did many years ago, I hope you think about my words. Our decision to not use contraception has been the most difficult, amazing, and prayerful decision we have ever made in our marriage. I look at my daughter and wonder if she would be here, had we not been open to life. I can say with almost 100% certainty that the little life in my womb right now would not be here, had we not left it up to God.
You might have read all this, and still be wondering: "Well, that's great and all, but how can the Catholic Church expect a woman to have as many babies as she possibly can? That doesn't seem healthy or morally right."
The Church still recognizes that there are situations in which it would be best for a married couple to avoid pregnancy, such as serious health reasons. The great thing is, there is a morally acceptable way to do this that doesn't contradict God's original intent in sexuality. I'll talk about that in my next post about Natural Family Planning. Stay tuned!