Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Contraception

Q - I have heard different things about contraception. So, is it a sin to use contraception or not? What is the difference between contraception and NFP - Natural Family Planing?

A – Thanks for your question! This is a tough topic for many people, but once the situation is examined in depth, I think it is easy for us to understand what the Catholic Church teaches about the issue.

But, before I answer the question I will tell you that I have used many different resources for this answer (including Pope John Paul II, Pope Paul VI, Janet Smith, Christopher West, St. Thomas Aquinas, Dr. Mark Lowery and others).

I will focus on several areas – History, Society, Relationships and Theology. Before I do that, we have to answer this question. What is love? Many people think it is a feeling or something that comes and goes.
How about these two definitions:
1 – Love is a gift of the whole person given to another.
2 – Love is choosing what is best for another regardless of the cost to myself.

Can we agree that these are good descriptions of what true love really is? Christ gave us one new commandment -"Love one another as I have loved you" (Jn 13:35). How did He love us? He gave everything He had to each of us on the Cross. It is the perfect gift of His whole person. He also wanted what was best for us and offers it to us even though it cost Him His life. So, Christ is our model of love. Keep this in mind.

HISTORY OF CONTRACEPTION
All of Christianity rejected Contraception until 1930 – where the Lambeth Convention of the Anglican Church allowed it in narrow circumstances.

Just a few years later a Protestant group of denominations (the Federal Council of Churches) allowed it. A day after the Federal Council of Churches declaration, a shocked Washington Post wrote the following:
"Carried to its logical conclusion, the committee's report, if carried into effect, would sound the deathknell of marriage as a holy institution by establishing degrading practices which would encourage indiscriminate immorality. The suggestion that the use of legalized contraception would be 'careful and restrained' is preposterous."
Can you imagine the Post writing that today? Regardless, they were right. Society had a common sense about contraception as well, which is why contraception was outlawed until the 60’s. This common sense wasn't something new, just look at the Protestant reformers.
Martin Luther:
"[T]he exceedingly foul deed of Onan, the basest of wretches . . . is a most disgraceful sin. It is far more atrocious than incest and adultery. We call it unchastity, yes, a sodomitic sin. For Onan goes in to her; that is, he lies with her and copulates, and when it comes to the point of insemination, spills the semen, lest the woman conceive. Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed. Accordingly, it was a most disgraceful crime.”
John Calvin:
"The voluntary spilling of semen outside of intercourse between man and woman is a monstrous thing. Deliberately to withdraw from coitus in order that semen may fall on the ground is doubly monstrous. For this is to extinguish the hope of the race and to kill before he is born the hoped-for offspring."
Our choices in light of this history is this:
1 – Either 1,950 years of consistent Christian tradition (and the current stance of the Catholic Church) is wrong or;
2 – All of Christianity had it correct until 1950 (and the Catholic Church still does).

SOCIOLOGICAL/RELATIONAL REASONS
Here are some of the common predictions about what would happen once contraception was legal and widely used:
1 - Marriages would be better - Unwanted pregnancies would decrease - Abortions would decrease
But, what has happened?
-Divorce rate doubled between 1965-1975 from 25% to 50%
-One demographer has shown that access to the pill paralleled the increase to the divorce rate
-Those that use contraception have fewer children and later in marriage.
-Early years of marriage are fun, but there is a change in attitude
-But, children are harder to walk away from - They also make you less selfish
-Also showed there was more adultery because a women is more “available” and the natural consequences (babies) aren’t as easy to achieve.

2 - Less unwanted pregnancies?
-In 1960 some 6% of white babies were born out of wedlock - 22% in 1992
-In 1960 22%of black babies were born out of wedlock - 68% in 1992
3 - Fewer abortions?
-50% of women who have abortions go because contraception failed.
-“I got pregnant by accident”…how? This means something went RIGHT not.

Even the phrase “unwanted pregnancies” was never known before contraception. Because humanity knew that pregnancy followed sex. But, now that people have tried to separate the two (and have a false sense of control), when contraception fails, they are shocked that babies happen.

Pope Paul VI’s predictions
In his groundbreaking encyclical, Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI predicted the following would happen if contraception was widely used:
1) “how wide and easy a road would thus be opened up towards conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality”
- he got this one right

2) “It is also to be feared that the man, growing used to the employment of anti-conceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.”
-Pornography
-Rape
-The other person is no longer a person, but an object for pleasure.

3) “Who will stop rulers from favoring, from even imposing upon their peoples, if they were to consider it necessary, the method of contraception which they judge to be most efficacious? In such a way men, wishing to avoid individual, family, or social difficulties encountered in the observance of the divine law, would reach the point of placing at the mercy of the intervention of public authorities the most personal and most reserved sector of conjugal intimacy.”
-Forced abortions

So, how did the Pope know that this was going to happen? 3 reasons
1) He had Christian tradition
2) He had the Holy Spirit
3) He used natural law - We should use thing according to their nature.

-If I want grass in my backyard, I better not pave it.
-If you want to have a car run correctly – Don’t put oil in the gas tank.
-If you don’t use your bodies and sex according to their nature, then it is going to mess things up.

PURPOSE OF SEX
Most people never ask the question, “what is sex intended for” or “what is the purpose of sex”. They merely assume it is for pleasure. But, God didn’t create us just to have a good time in bed. Sex has two purposes:
1 – Procreation – babies
2 – Union of the Spouses – bonding

If we take either out, then sex loses its meaning and becomes something it isn’t intended for. For example:
-Rape – the purpose of rape is neither for babies or bonding.
-premarital sex – It certainly isn’t for either thing, though many disguise it as bonding. Why isn’t it bonding?

Because is it a loving act (remember how we defined love above before you answer) to take a risk with getting someone who isn’t married pregnant? Is it loving to risk the emotional, spiritual or physical harm that comes with premarital sex (break-ups, sin, disease, etc)?

When sex loses it’s intended purpose, then it becomes something that isn’t good.
In fact, as Catholics we say sex is even better than good – which we will explore below.

THEOLOGICAL / BIBLICAL REASONS
How does society view children and portray them?
-More children will take our money
-More children take our freedom
-More children will use up the earth’s resources
In other words, they are a burden.

But, the Bible has a different view.
-As a blessing from God. Curse – to be barren in the Bible
-As Gifts
-That the Earth was made for humans to properly use
-As immortal souls that we participate with God in creating. WE CREATE WITH GOD (pro – create)

God designed sex to be open to life. When one has sex and contracepts, they are, in effect, telling God that they want to have the effects of sex (pleasure) without the purpose. “NO THANKS GOD, WE DON’T WANT YOU TO BE A PART OF THIS”.

3 things that contraception does:
-It blocks God out of the sexual act (violates procreation)
-It treats children as a burden, not a gift.
-It prevents bonding between the spouses.

Love = Total self-giving of yourself. To withhold your fertility from another, is partial gift at best. Use at worst.

Think of these two different phrases:
-I want to have sex with you vs I want to have a baby with you - one says I want to pleasure myself and use you to do it the other says I want to spend the rest of my life with you.

When a couple has sex they are worshipping God with there bodies when done in the proper context.
God the Father and God the Son love each other so much and so powerfully that the result of their love is the third person of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit. This is why John could write that “God is love”.

We are made in God’s image and likeness. We image God in our relationship with our spouses and in sex. When the husband and wife come together as one, the result of their love is their children. Sex then becomes worship of God, which is why it is so much more than just pleasure. It isn’t just good. Sex is sacred.

How does the pill work? Makes the woman’s body think it is pregnant
1) Stops ovulation
2) If that fails then - it changes the mucus so that the sperm isn’t in a good environment
3) It prevents implantation of a fertilized ovum into the Uterus - ABORTION

The Pill can cause blood clotting, and liver tumors among younger women. Fatal heart attacks are approximately twice as frequent among women who take the Pill. It can cause weight gain, decreased libido, depression, etc.

Moreover, all chemical forms of birth control can act as abortifacients – that is, a chemical abortion.

So how does NFP work?
NFP experts say that when a couple understands and follows the method, NFP is about 99 percent effective in avoiding pregnancy.
-Billings method uses signs of cervical mucus
-Sympto-Thermal Method monitors the cervical mucus, changes of the cervix and uses temperature as a cross-check. A second kind is ecological breastfeeding, which uses frequent suckling and longer feedings.

What is the difference between the two?
The difference is that using contraception is akin to speaking a lie with the body. When we have sex, we are saying with our bodies “I give everything I am to you, except my fertility”.

To use NFP is not to say anything with the body, because it is merely avoiding sex during the fertile times.
Remember that you can’t justify the ends by the means. The “end” of contraception as well as NFP (to not have a baby) are the same. BUT, the means are completely different.

-The Church affirms that efforts at birth regulation "must be done with respect for the order established by God" (Humanae Vitae, 16).
-we may not act against our created human nature in pursuing some purpose or pleasure.
When you have sex you are reaffirming your wedding vows. You are saying, with your bodies, that you love another person. You sacrifice yourself for them. You give yourself, ALL of yourself to them.

--NFP is like taking the 5th amendment in court. You can’t be held guilty for doing something if you never acted.

Think of Euthanasia -Active killing vs. passively letting another die.
NFP passively lets nature run its course while contraception acts against procreation (thus CONTRA)

-Now think about Praying. It is good. The Church says to pray. But, we aren’t called to meditate on the Cross of Christ all the time. But, when we do…it should be done with reverence. At any time it is okay to pray or not to pray (that is our choice), but we are never to blaspheme.

Some of the Benefits to NFP
-More sex on average.
-Women have more self-respect for themselves
-Sex isn’t about just feeling good and therefore the women don’t feel like objects
-More satisfaction
-Better communication and marriages. Must talk for it to work
-Marriages last longer (less than 2% get divorced)
-Freedom from guilt and sin
-Grow closer to God
-Cheaper than contraception
-No side effects

The Church gets the final word in answering the questions above. From the Catechism:
2370 Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self- observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality. These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, "every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" is intrinsically evil:
Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality.... The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle . . . involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.
I hope this helps answer your question.