The Constant Convert
Contraception and Understanding: Rebuilding the Foundation
Many Catholics have already subscribed to the popular viewpoint that sex can and should be free of its procreative consequences. One of the most often (and inaccurately) quoted statistics to come out of the controversy surrounding the HHS mandate, is that 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women have used contraception. Whether the statistic is accurate or not, it is perhaps understandable that people feel threatened at the thought of removing the scaffolding on which they have built their lives, especially if the solid ground underneath has eroded away.
The Gospel of Mark (8:1-10) describes how crowds gathered around Jesus, but they had no food. "My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat," Christ says. The statistics suggest that while we've been here in Christ's presence, many of us have still gone without food. Whether we've been deprived of food, or whether we have chosen not to eat is up for debate, but our response should be clear.
Jesus told the disciples to feed the crowds, and he supplied the resources necessary to do so. The time is now to feed the people in the pews and catechize one another on the whole life ethic that is willing to forego easy temporal solutions for eternal ones.
Most Catholics know the Church opposes the use of artificial contraception, but few can articulate why, and even fewer are acquainted with the licit means that the Church allows for married couples to space babies, Natural Family Planning. (NFP)
Jenny (not her real name), a young woman who graduated from a Catholic university, revealed that when she and her husband were married, she thought that the only option for Catholics in the absence of artificial contraceptives was to have as many babies as possible.
When she first learned of Natural Family Planning, she decided to seek more information, but she could find nothing at her local parish. By word of mouth, she found a number to call in order to sign up for the six-week course, an hour's drive from her house.
Fortunately, she didn't give up on the idea. But if Church leaders continue to wait for engaged or married couples to seek out information about NFP, most couples never will. And by giving up on learning this information about their bodies, fertility, and putting the well-being of one's spouse before one's own sexual gratification, they are missing out on an underlying foundation of the Catholic Sexual Ethic.
Sex is a gift. It is not a right. Our need or desire for sex never outweighs the good of others.
One way to disseminate this information before it's too late would be to teach NFP in conjunction with Catholic moral teaching on sexuality in every Catholic high school. Understanding a woman's fertility cycle, and how her signs of fertility can be used to avoid or achieve pregnancy, is valuable biological information that should not be withheld out of fear that some students might use the information for immoral purposes. If we don't teach the ethic and the method at this critical time in their sexual maturity, it is far more likely that students will absorb the worldly sexual ethic that provides concrete loopholes for a difficult religious practice.
The easiest answer is rarely the best answer, which is what my friend knew about her foster daughter. Ultimately, for the benefit and safety of the girl and her foster family, she was transferred to a different home, to provide geographical distance from the negatively influential boyfriend. Being moved from foster home to foster home is not a good situation, but it's less damaging than becoming a gangster's woman at the age of 14. Either way, it's a heartrending situation. We pray that having heard the message at least once in her life, that she's worth waiting for, she embarks on the development of her own moral conscience, a conscience worth fighting for.
Elizabeth Duffy is a freelance writer and author of the blog, "Betty Duffy." Her writing has appeared online at Faith and Family, the Korrektiv Press Blog, and numerous other venues. She and her husband live in rural Indiana with their five children.