Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Why Catholicism Teaches Against Artificial Contraception

The Catholic Church's teaching against artificial contraception is beautiful because it edifies total respect for all human persons.  I hope in the future to continue adding posts about this topic, especially in more laymen terms.  For the sake of wanting to tackle serious, topical healthcare issues going on right now in America, I need to address this issue first, so to help me speed things along, I'm going to present the teachings of the Catholic Church on conjugal, married love as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

First... what is the Catechism of the Catholic Church (or the CCC)?  The CCC is the official text of the teachings of the Catholic Church.  There's no single author, but the Catechism of the Catholic Church Prepared Following the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council (its full title) was developed, written, translated and published under Pope John Paul II's authority, with all rights reserved to the Holy See.  It's a book that helps us understand and see why the word of God teaches us what it does because as untrained, religious laymen, we can think we know what the Bible is telling us, but unless we rely on educated, religious leaders to "translate" per se, what it is that God is telling us in the Bible, we're just basing what we read on our own interpretations and opinions. 

Since the Catholic Church is a worldwide, universal religion, and there are millions of us, we need to be "on the same page".  Just like the game, Telephone, we played as children when you sit in a circle and whisper a message to the person next to you to see how the message changes by the time it gets to the last person, the same can be said for how people teach God's word, therefore, the Catholic Church has the CCC.  It references and quotes the Bible throughout the book, and is NOT a replacement to the Bible, but rather a "study-guide", or manual that helps define our religious beliefs so the millions of Catholics around the world will understand the one, true word of God and our religious doctrine, and thus all be "on the same page".  It contains small sections of the actual documents it references.  The church’s rich tradition, the Bible, and liturgy (our worship services conducted for the celebration of Mass) all illuminate each other and help us grow in faith, hope, and love.
Like I mentioned above, I will dialogue more personally about this topic in the future, but I think this is the best place to start.  The following text is directly quoted from the CCC regarding "The Love of Husband and Wife", "The Fecundity of Marriage", and "Conjugal Fidelity", and how these explanations reveal the Churches teachings on contraception.
This section of the CCC is found on page 626 under: 

  • SECTION TWO: The Ten Commandments
    • CHAPTER TWO: You Shall Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
      • ARTICLE 6: The Sixth Commandment
        • III. The Love of Husband and Wife
III. The Love of Husband and Wife

2360 Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman. In marriage the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion. Marriage bonds between baptized persons are sanctified by the sacrament.

2361 "Sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is not something simply biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and woman commit themselves totally to one another until death."142

Tobias got out of bed and said to Sarah, "Sister, get up, and let us pray and implore our Lord that he grant us mercy and safety." So she got up, and they began to pray and implore that they might be kept safe. Tobias began by saying, "Blessed are you, O God of our fathers.... You made Adam, and for him you made his wife Eve as a helper and support. From the two of them the race of mankind has sprung. You said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; let us make a helper for him like himself.' I now am taking this kinswoman of mine, not because of lust, but with sincerity. Grant that she and I may find mercy and that we may grow old together." and they both said, "Amen, Amen." Then they went to sleep for the night.143

2362 "The acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place are noble and honorable; the truly human performance of these acts fosters the self-giving they signify and enriches the spouses in joy and gratitude."144 Sexuality is a source of joy and pleasure:

The Creator himself . . . established that in the [generative] function, spouses should experience pleasure and enjoyment of body and spirit. Therefore, the spouses do nothing evil in seeking this pleasure and enjoyment. They accept what the Creator has intended for them. At the same time, spouses should know how to keep themselves within the limits of just moderation.145

2363 The spouses' union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple's spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family.
The conjugal love of man and woman thus stands under the twofold obligation of fidelity and fecundity.

Conjugal fidelity

2364 The married couple forms "the intimate partnership of life and love established by the Creator and governed by his laws; it is rooted in the conjugal covenant, that is, in their irrevocable personal consent."146 Both give themselves definitively and totally to one another. They are no longer two; from now on they form one flesh. the covenant they freely contracted imposes on the spouses the obligation to preserve it as unique and indissoluble.147 "What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder."148

2365 Fidelity expresses constancy in keeping one's given word. God is faithful. the Sacrament of Matrimony enables man and woman to enter into Christ's fidelity for his Church. Through conjugal chastity, they bear witness to this mystery before the world.

St. John Chrysostom suggests that young husbands should say to their wives: I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us.... I place your love above all things, and nothing would be more bitter or painful to me than to be of a different mind than you.149

The fecundity of marriage

2366 Fecundity is a gift, an end of marriage, for conjugal love naturally tends to be fruitful. A child does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfillment. So the Church, which "is on the side of life"150 teaches that "each and every marriage act must remain open 'per se' to the transmission of life."151 "This particular doctrine, expounded on numerous occasions by the Magisterium, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act."152

2367 Called to give life, spouses share in the creative power and fatherhood of God.153 "Married couples should regard it as their proper mission to transmit human life and to educate their children; they should realize that they are thereby cooperating with the love of God the Creator and are, in a certain sense, its interpreters. They will fulfill this duty with a sense of human and Christian responsibility."154

2368 A particular aspect of this responsibility concerns the regulation of procreation. For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood. Moreover, they should conform their behavior to the objective criteria of morality:

When it is a question of harmonizing married love with the responsible transmission of life, the morality of the behavior does not depend on sincere intention and evaluation of motives alone; but it must be determined by objective criteria, criteria drawn from the nature of the person and his acts criteria that respect the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love; this is possible only if the virtue of married chastity is practiced with sincerity of heart.155

2369 "By safeguarding both these essential aspects, the unitive and the procreative, the conjugal act preserves in its fullness the sense of true mutual love and its orientation toward man's exalted vocation to parenthood."156

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.157 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:158

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.159

2371 "Let all be convinced that human life and the duty of transmitting it are not limited by the horizons of this life only: their true evaluation and full significance can be understood only in reference to man's eternal destiny."160

After citing the above, I think it's also important to cite something in the very next section under: 

The Gift of a Child

2378 A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift. the "supreme gift of marriage" is a human person. A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea to which an alleged "right to a child" would lead. In this area, only the child possesses genuine rights: the right "to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents," and "the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception."169

I'm sure this doesn't answer all questions regarding the Church's teachings against artificial contraception.  In a nutshell, we see that God has meant sexual intercourse to be between a married man and women for procreation and as a gift to each other, a gift of TOTAL SELF-GIVING.  Any form of artificial contraception, abortifacient birth control (click HERE to see how some birth control pills actually abort a fertilized embryo) or sterilization prohibits TOTAL self-giving to your spouse.  I personal "get this" and think it's absolutely beautiful!  Sadly, many Catholics don't understand this, or don't know what the Church teaches about this, or they just want to follow their own will for their lives with no regard for God's will for us, so you might hear many Catholics do use artificial contraception. 

There's so much that can be discussed about this topic, as it does open a big can of worms, such as:  What if you don't want a large family, What if you can't afford more children, What if the wife (or another family member) has a serious medical or genetic condition, What is one spouse isn't Catholic or doesn't agree with this teaching, and so on.  These are things I hope to post about in the future, as they do deserve discussing.  These questions are valid and there are beautiful, Godly truths to the answers to these questions that I look forward to sharing.  In the meantime, if you're wondering what the alternative to man-made contraception is, it's Natural Family Planning.  Yes, you CAN effectively plan the size of your family without artificial contraception, and no, the church doesn't expect every married woman to have one baby after another throughout her entire fertile years.

"Natural family planning (NFP) is a term referring to the family planning methods approved by the Roman Catholic Church. In accordance with the Church's teachings regarding sexual behavior in keeping with its philosophy of the dignity of the human person, NFP excludes the use of other methods of birth control, which it refers to as "artificial contraception."  Periodic abstinence is the only method deemed moral by the Church for avoiding pregnancy. When used to avoid pregnancy, NFP limits sexual intercourse to naturally infertile periods; portions of the menstrual cycle, during pregnancy, and after menopause. Various methods may be used to identify whether a woman is likely to be fertile; this information may be used in attempts to either avoid or achieve pregnancy."  -Wikipedia 
These method are not hard.  Typically there are only 7 days in a month that a married couple would not have intercourse if they are not wanting to conceive a child.  So the other 23 days, have at it!  It's really not that restrictive.  Besides, that 7 day sacrifice PALES in comparison to the sacrifice Christ made for us! 

Natural Family Planning practices can do much good for a marriage and the respect for one another, and human life, which God has intended for us to have for each other.  I believe it's only seen as hard, or outdated, or too restrictive because of the hypersexualized culture we're living in today, which can be attributed much to the materialism and commercialism everywhere in society feeding us that life is all about doing what WE want to do for our own pleasure.  This way of living breeds selfishness, which sadly isn't even seen as selfishness in many people's eyes, but rather our "right to happiness". 

God doesn't ask that we live a life according to His will in order to be mean, or controlling, or to punish us.  It's because He loves us so much, and knows what's best for us - our Father does know what's best for us - just like a parent/child relationship here on earth.  I truly believe, as God tells us, that by living His will for our lives, we will experience true happiness and be blessed abundantly, on earth and in Heaven.  Unfortunately, again much of our culture doesn't see it that way because of how our society defines "happiness".

Check back soon, as I'll post links (on the right side of this blog page) to cites that are good resources for NFP information.  If you're interested in reading one of my other posts about the perspective of a woman who came of age in the sexual revolution of the '60's and the onset of wide-spread use of the Pill, see this post: "We paid the price for free love:  The flip side of the sexual revolution".

May the love of God and peace be with you!

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