In last week’s column, I gave a bit of history on the Church’s position and the cultural shift in opinion on the use of artificial contraception. This week, I would like to offer more of an explanation about why the Church teaches what it does on this issue. To begin to answer this question we have to ask, “what is the purpose of sexual intercourse?” The Church sees its purpose as twofold: (1) to bring about unity between spouses and (2) for the procreation of children. These two purposes are simply evident in biology, and they are inseparable. The sexual act naturally involves a total self-giving of the man and woman to each other, as well as openness to the possibility of conceiving children.
Because of these two purposes, barrier protection (condoms and spermicides), withdrawal before the completion of the act, and all forms of hormonal contraception and abortifacient drugs are sinful, as are forms of direct sterilization such as tubal ligation and vasectomy. The use of surrogate mothers, sperm banks, egg donation, artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, and certain fertility practices are also prohibited by the Church for the same reasons. Each of the abovementioned products and practices separate sexual intercourse from its intended purposes – either unity of the spouses, or openness to life, or both. In essence, God is removed from the picture. When artificial contraception (or fertilization) in whatever form is used, the couple’s self-giving is greatly compromised or non-existent. It is as if they are saying to each other, “I love everything about you, except your fertility,” as opposed to, “I love everything about you and I give myself to you completely.”
As a result of contraception, our culture has divorced sexual intercourse from its natural and God-intended purposes and replaced those purposes with the selfish seeking of pleasure. In many marriages in which contraception has been frequently used, self-giving love has often been replaced with lust and greed. Therefore, it should be no surprise to us that as contraception has become widespread in our culture, so has divorce. Because the consequences of a possible pregnancy are eliminated, promiscuity and adultery become much more common as well.
God has given a man and woman united in marriage the remarkable privilege of participating with him in the creation of new life. Through contraception however, we take the good of physical pleasure from sexual intercourse and reject the privilege of creating life that God has given us. Next week, I will address the topic of responsible parenthood and what the Church intends by being open to life.