Why Contraception Is a Bad Idea #1 — Natural Law

After the drama of our last post, I believe I owe all of you studly individuals an explanation. Of course, in the particular situation of the HHS Mandate, I don’t think it matters one whit whether you agree with the Church’s teaching on contraception: It is an affront to all religious liberty, and should be opposed as such. But the 800 lbs. Papal Bull in the room remains: Well, why is the Church opposed to contraception? I will attempt to answer that question. There may be some pictures. Do not fear, they are neither for your sake, nor the depth of my argument, only for the gratification of my ADHD.

See?

(Disclaimer: I understand that there are legitimate medical uses for hormonal contraceptives. As Humanae Vitae states “The Church does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there from—provided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever.” This article is written with the assumption that contraception is being used to solely and directly to prevent pregnancy.)

The Case From Natural Law

Natural Law is very simple. It claims two axioms: That all things should achieve their natural end, and that situations and actions can be decided as contrary to an organism’s natural end based on their effects upon that organism. For example, putting a rosebush in a closet leads to the withering of the rosebush. To wither is not the natural end of the rosebush. In fact, inherent in the rosebush’s biology is its natural goal of growth and reproduction. Therefore, rosebushes should not be placed in closets.

If you subscribe to some sort of nihilistic-hipster-philosophy that claims something like, “Yeah but couldn’t the withering of the rosebush be just as good as its flourishing?” then go outside, take a knee, and punch yourself in the face. If, however, you are of the sound, existential view that humans and rosebushes were both meant to flourish, read on:

The natural end of sex is both unity and procreation. Love and life. Shocking, but true. If this is denied, and it is claimed that sex is solely about making babies, then you’re a jerk in the vein of Henry VIII, and a Puritan besides. If, on the other hand, it is claimed that sex is solely about pleasure, one must contend with the shocking fact of what — precisely — leaves a man and enters a woman.

To argue otherwise is to look at a farmer casting seeds upon fertile ground and claim that he is casting the seed for the pure joy of seed-casting. This is not to say there is no joy, even a wild joy, to be found in planting a field. It is simply to note that it would be an insane man who would plant his field by the logic that throwing seeds is fun, and then become shocked and annoyed when his field bore grain in due season. Every part of the action of sex speaks to the creation of new life. Yet regard the reaction of modern man, who plants his seed on fertile ground, and the modern woman, who receives that seed…okay, wait, gimme a sec…

…and then — upon being confronted with new life — cry “How did this happen?” or “I can’t believe this happened to me!” and in fear kill the new life they have created. In the midst of a world of insane farmers, I hold this truth to be self-evident: The natural end of sex is both unity (pleasure) and procreation (babies) and these things are inseparably intertwined.

To contracept is to remove the possibility of procreation from the equation. Thus sex does not achieve its natural end. This is hardly contested. What is contested is whether or not this is a bad thing.

If an act does not achieve its natural end, that act is detrimental to the organism. If the act of eating does not achieve its natural end of filling, the organism will starve. Think about bulimia. We reject bulimia as disordered because it seeks to have only half of eating’s natural end — the pleasure of eating — while rejecting the other — being full. When the act of eating is not allowed to achieve its natural end, the act is detrimental to the organism. The bulimic suffers.

Or think about foreplay (but not too specifically.) If the act of foreplay is not allowed to achieve its natural end — sex — the organism suffers. Particularly the male organism — who must curl into a ball and whimper as the blood built up in his testicles slowly and painfully departs — but also the general psychological disappointment in frustration involved. We would reject the man who wants the excitement of foreplay without the release of orgasm in the same way we would mock a band who counts off in a fury and then walks off stage. Again: When an act is not allowed to reach its natural end, the organism suffers. If the act of sleep fails to achieve its natural end, the organism is tired. When bathing is not allowed to reach its natural end, the organism remains dirty.

It is also worth pointing out that in each case, were an act that does not reach its natural end to be accepted as normal and popular, society as a whole — or the humans species, if you will — would suffer. If we were all bulimic, we wouldn’t last long.

So we arrive at contraception. To summarize my argument: Sex is by its nature both unitive and procreative. To deny an essential part of its nature is to prevent sex from achieving its natural end. When acts do not achieve their natural end, the acting organism suffers. When those acts become widespread, society suffers. Now I grant that a human being is a fantastically complex organism, but if what I say is true — that the act of contraception prevents sex from achieving its natural end — the human being must suffer as a result of contraception.

And as it turns out, they do. If it is a hormonal form of contraception that interrupts a woman’s actual biology — and thus the natural ends of a her biological acts — then its harm is clear: Hormonal contraceptives increase the risk of breast cancer in women, and it is now argued that they increase the risk of prostate cancer in men. Their list of side-effects is tremendously long — stroke, heart-attack, and blood-clots being among my least favorites.

(Here it may be argued, yes, but hormonal contraceptives reduce the risk of ovarian cancer as well, and there is thus a “canceling” effect that needs taking into account. But low-dose birth control pills, the most commonly prescribed hormonal contraceptives, have been proven to reduce a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer by less than 1% per year of use. This is not to say that such a reduction is not beneficial at all, but it must be pointed out that hormonal contraception reduces the risk of ovarian cancer only insofar as it imitates the natural end of sex — pregnancy. Pregnancy leads to a 40% “decrease in the risk for epithelial ovarian cancer with the first live birth,” a risk that is further decreased by subsequent breast-feeding. It would take forty years of being on the Pill to achieve the benefits that having one baby provides. Please do not quote the widely circulated statistic that the Pill reduces the risk of ovarian cancer by 40-80%. This statistic is the result of an average, taken from a study that included women who used high-dose birth control pills, had been on the Pill for up to 20 years, and had already had one or more children. Incidentally, the risk-reduction for high-dose birth control pills is 7% per year, but these are the market’s least prescribed pills, as women reject them for their extreme side-effects.)

I would also argue that the use of some physical barriers — i.e. the condom, the female condom — by seeking to avoid the physical contact that allows the possibility of procreation, actual reduce the physical pleasure of unity, except I don’t have a lot of expertise in that area. But a human being doesn’t just suffer from contraception on a physical level. There is an emotional, psychological toll.

 

Think of the statement contraception makes: We tell our sexual partners, in the act of sex, I want all of you, totally, completely, except your fertility. You keep that to yourself. Or if we’re guys, keeping our girls on the Pill, we’re effectively saying, “This part of you I must control. I love you, and I’ll sleep with you, but on the condition that you take a hormone preventing your natural, bodily state.” This may be part of the reason NFP users have an average divorce rate of 0.2%, and experience over all “happier marriages.” Not because they are better, but simply because, like a rosebush in the sun, they are flourishing.

And society too pays a toll for contraception. Besides that if you take the contraception attitude to its logical conclusion, you arrive at the end of our species, there is John C. Wright’s argument — a fantastic philosophical construction, by the way – that “widespread socially accepted use of contraception in a society makes the illusion of consequence-free sexual vice possible, and that illusion is not possible otherwise.” The plethora of problems we face today — from abortion to S.T.D’s to broken family structures — are the result of a mentality that sex does not have consequences, a mentality caused — by and large — by contraception.

So the Church isn’t simply saying “don’t use contraception or God will smite you.” Far, far from it. The Church is saying that our very bodies, our very beings reject the act of contraception as a violation of natural law. It is a sin, yes, but more in the sense that bulimia is a sin. It is a rejection of a good, natural selves, and the fullness of our own potential. Contraception doesn’t allow sex to achieve its natural end, and thus, like putting a rosebush in a closet, it leads to a withering, whether that be physically, emotionally, psychologically or socially. And human beings were not meant to wither, but to have life to its fullest.

Thanks for reading! I imagine this won’t go down well, but please keep an open mind in the comment box. If you are blatantly trolling in excessive bout of injured pride, I will replace your comments with my favorite sections from the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae.

  • Anonymous

    Dear MJP, I believe the clinical term for what you’ve achieved here is a “WOOOOT”. Slam dunk. Please tune into my blog tomorrow for a game of matching Our Bodies, Ourselves with sections of said encyclical. Heat sleeves, pffffft.

  • Alix

    “If you are blatantly trolling in excessive bout of injured pride, I will replace your comments with my favorite sections from the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae.”

    Lol!

  • http://marysghillie.wordpress.com/ Mary’s Ghillie

    Beautifully written. I also love the parallel between the human family and the Blessed Trinity, from Theology of the Body. Life is a treasure!
    P.S. Thank you for sharing your writing. God blessed you with a great gift – thank you for setting your lamp on a lampstand!
    Prayers and blessings. +M

  • emma

    Great post! The pictures helped my attention stay on track as well.

  • Anonymous

    LOL. About as succinct a treatment as I can imagine of this rather involved subject. And very entertaining.

  • Anonymous

    Also, thank you for the bulimia analogy, especially the words about the parallel of the sin involved. That is a sensitive and brilliant way to look at it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/techmage89 Paul Fox

      Interestingly, I thought of the same analogy some time ago. It’s such a good fit! I’m not surprised someone else has come up with it.

      • Leila

        Great minds think alike. I used the same analogy, here:

        http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2011/03/important-follow-up-to-natural-family.html

        Contraception? It’s just sexual bulimia.

        • Anonymous

          I would equate it more to sexual “binging and purging”. Bulimia is actually a disorder that may have started willfully but has now reached the state of being out of the sufferer’s control.

          • Lauren

            Thank you. Bulimia is a disease, which, by describing it as a choice is diminishing the real suffering that those enduring it face.

          • Anonymous

            Bulimia is not a disease, but a psychological disorder. Depending on the extent of psychological impairment, the bulimic has varying levels of decision-making capacity. But whether one chooses freely or not makes no difference to the fact that bulimia is unhealthy.

          • Evan B.

            @sneakierbiscuit…disease, psychological disorder…I’m not sure what you take that difference to be?

  • Guest

    You never cease to amaze me. This is a fantastic article. Please keep writing!

  • Elm

    you are very brave. lol.

    :: hats off to you ::

  • http://arleenspenceley.blogspot.com/ Arleen Spenceley

    This is fabulous. And hilarious. I’m gonna make my friends read it. :)

    • Allison Grace

      Oh yes, me too. And my teens.

  • Anonymous

    Wow. Entirely well put. “That’s what she said”, indeed.

  • enness

    TYRANNOSAURS IN F-14s!
    “This is so cool!”
    “This is so stupid.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-A-Carlson/100001401488797 David A. Carlson

      T-Rexes in fighter planes rock. The only thing better would be dragons in F-117
      Or maybe a Raptor piloting a F-22 Raptor.

      • http://intimategeography.wordpress.com/ Barbara

        Dude, a dragon IS an F-117

      • Aaron Suddjian

        A raptor with laser eyes standing on top of an F-14 piloted by a tyrannosaur.

        • James H

          Stop that! Far too silly!

  • Julia K.

    I’m an Anglo-Catholic and a recent frequenter of your blog. I find much to agree with you on, but I must respectfully diverge here, both on contraception and perhaps even on the notion of teleology.

    To best express why, my mind returns to a comment I read years ago on an article against contraception in First Things, which comment I’ll reproduce in part below:

    “It is right there—the notion of ‘telos’—that I think the RC mind and the Protestant mind part company, at least in part. The idea of telos—that the created order can be defined in terms of a thing’s ‘end’ or ‘purpose’, or ‘goal’—is Greek thought and foreign to the Christian scriptures. For instance, when you note a post or so back that RC’s would say ‘unity of the spouses is the end, or purpose of marriage,’ scripture does not present the matter in that light but simply says ‘this is what happens’—the two become one flesh. A thing’s telos or purpose may or may not be a useful category of analysis, but it is not properly a way of understanding humanity’s interaction with the created order.

    “Again, Ms Eberstadt [the author of the First Things article] notes that the intent of both natural family planning and contraception is the avoidance of pregnancy. The Protestant mind, I think, stops right there. As the Westminster Confession puts it, ‘Sin is any want of conformity unto or violation of the law of God.’ Sin thus is not violation of some teleologically defined created order” [emphasis mine].

    “No, I think the whole notion of ‘telos’ is deficient and its incorporation into Christian thinking largely a result of St. Thomas’ dalliance with the Greeks. Scripture does not speak to abstract categories but only to the intent of the human heart before God as judged by individual conscience.”

    Source: http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/spengler/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=807#p12740

    • http://www.facebook.com/techmage89 Paul Fox

      I find the statement that telos is foreign to Christianity to be very odd, and contrary to most fundamental understandings of Christian theology. Augustine, after all, borrowed from Greek philosophy almost as much as Aquinas.

      Any theology based on different philosophical underpinnings would have to be quite different. Not that it’s necessarily impossible, I’ve just never seen anything like it.

      Even then, to hold that there are no moral issues with contraception, one would have to dismiss mountains of evidence from both Scripture and Tradition, basically every orthodox teaching (both Catholic and Protestant) prior to about 1930.

      Doing some reading on the history of Christianity and contraception, it continues of baffle me how anyone was ever convinced of it (originally it was done on eugenics arguments; there’s a frightening thought).

    • LJP

      “When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, event though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” Rom 2:14-16 [emphasis mine]

      Foreign to Christian scriptures? I think not. Just because the early Greeks weren’t Christians had no bearing on their ability to understand that there is something innate in us that we cannot deny, something “written on their hearts.”

      Often it seems Christians have a habit of believing “Christian thinking” is privy only to them, we are all God’s creatures, we should not be surprised when those who are not Christian exhibit Christian values…it only serves to strengthen our truths.

      You reject that there is design and purpose in God’s creation? How is that not simply a rejection of God?

    • fabius

      I think it’s ok to say that human intention and conscience before God are important and sometimes even diverge between two individuals. But I also think that’s actually an affirmation of telos rather than a refutation. Free will and the capacity to love God freely is what we were designed to do. Most often, apparent divergences between two individuals is a disagreement over the best particular end in question. In some cases the difference may be so trivial as to be essentially meaningless (i.e. the choice of shoe color might vary according to what makes an individual most happy, all other considerations being equal), more often however, the fallen logos of the individual has a tough time properly discerning what is the proper course of action (end) in a given situation. This can be defined as what God may particularly want for an individual, or it can be put in terms of Natural Law (how God orders reality and orders our fulfillment within our nature), but that’s really approaching the same question from two different directions.

      Everyone has a philosophical system they use to interpret revelation. Practically speaking, the Church has used the philosophical tradition started by the Greeks most heavily, and I would feel quite comfortable debating any and all comers that a better framework has not be found.

    • http://www.facebook.com/SacraGreebrew Anthony Ray Hernandez

      This is assuming that teleology is contradictory to the Scriptures, which hasn’t been proven, only asserted. This hinges upon whether a person views the Scriptures alone as authoritative, or whether they view anything harmonious with the Scriptures as authoritative as well. I argue that, the early Protestants did not consider the Scriptures as solely authoritative but saw them as a standard to judge other “truths” by: the norming norm. Those involved in drafting the Westminster Confession may not have come to the conclusion that such a thing was compatible with said norming norm, but since you’re a Protestant, you must agree that these individuals were not infallible and thus could have reached a wrong conclusion. Maybe it was cultural influences, maybe it was lack of time or effort, but just because they didn’t think it was true does not mean it was not true.

      Now that I’ve dealt with that issue (and making the assumption that anything that does not contradict Scripture is acceptable), let me move on to my (limited) understanding of the matter: this is a “both/and” matter, and not an “either/or”. I believe that those who drafted the Confession were mistaken in viewing sin as a primarily legal matter. It is, but since the laws that are broken are God’s laws then it is only logical (assuming divine simplicity) that God’s law ultimately only exists as a separate category from God’s nature logically (or systematically,) and not in reality. In other words, God’s laws are also God’s nature and being. It follows that, when God created, all of creation would be essentially rooted in His law. Creation would be intended to serve the ends of God’s laws. Therefore, a legal violation of God’s laws would also involve violating the “laws” of the reality that He created. The two things, the offense against God, and the violation of creation’s telos would be inseparable, because the telos is rooted inseparably in its Creator.

      I think if anyone acknowledges a reason, a “why” to why something is a sin, then they’re already dabbling in teleology.

      I tried to explain contraception, but my understanding of the issue is inadequate so I deleted that paragraph.

  • enness

    In all seriousness — thank you for mentioning the prostate cancer correlation. It’s cause this stuff doesn’t get filtered out of the water, so in a way, people don’t always have a choice whether to ingest it or not.

  • Susan (Archaeology cat)

    Loved the post!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1838570798 Michael Yost

    I am an Anglo Catholic (More like a Catholic Anglican) and I love your blog. You are both insightful and funny. Keep it up!

  • McCushla

    What did Henry VII ever do to you? I think you mean Henry VIII.

    • enness

      What a difference an ‘I’ makes!

    • Man of La Mancha

      Henry VII actually makes sense, in context. He was known as a cold, heartless miser who did what was expedient and never succumbed to any passion, good or bad. It has been said that Henry VIII was something of a party animal in reaction against his father.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1838570798 Michael Yost

    Also, I will forever count you among the great bloggers of this world for having a Calvin and Hobbes picture in your article. :)

  • Gracy

    LMAO. Very entertaining and sooooo true! Love your blog

  • CatholicMom

    Fantastic post! More people need to understand the beauty of not using contraception. My children, who read and often post here, are the result of the third generation in modern times of faithful husbands and wives NOT contracepting. They grew up knowing the richness of following God’s plan, the intelligence of scientific natural family planning, and the social and philosophical benefits of living the truth! Truly rose bushes flourishing in the sun! (“By their fruits you shall know them.) BTW, I converted to Catholicism partly because of how much sense Humanae Vitae made, back when I was an agnostic trying to understand the philosophical nature of the universe. I was looking for the truth, and I found Him! (Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life.)

  • Perrierlover

    Except bulimia isn’t a sin. It’s a mental disorder.

    • Alexandra

      Yeah, I understood your analogy Marc, but saying that bulimia is a sin is a huge stretch and really rather offensive.

      Unless I missed some Catholic theology where suffering from a mental illness is a sin, I think you’re wrong on this point.

      • filiusdextris

        A bulimia sufferer may have a diminished or complete lack of subjective culpability for the practice, though the practice may still be objectively sinful. Without deciding here, there seem to at least be grounds to think it might be objectively sinful.

        • Alexandra

          Yikes, that is incredibly offensive.

          • Anonymous

            It shouldn’t be. Alcoholism is a disorder. Abuse of alcohol is objectively sinful. That a suffering addict is performing some action objectively immoral doesn’t mean that they are guilty of sin.

            There is no way that the actions of the suffering bulimic are morally positive or neutral.

          • http://www.theroad2emmaus.blogspot.com/ Jeremy

            I think we also have to make a distinction between something that is sin, and something that is grave matter. Remember, one of the conditions for a person to sin, is that he or she has to fully know and freely cooperate with that action.

            CCC 1860: Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders.

          • Anonymous

            And 1849 succinctly defines sin as “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law,” which the actions here clearly are.

            No one is saying that people with such disorders are going to hell, or that they are even guilty of any sin. They clearly, as you point out, do not fall under the proper conditions of having personally committed grave sin.

            This does not change the fact that the actions are inherently morally objectionable, not morally neutral, and thus the fact that Mr. Barnes’ allegory, here under scrutiny, is not only quite good, but also should not be offensive whatsoever to any individual who understands a catholic conception of morality and guilt.

          • Steve

            That criterion is actually for the commission of a mortal sin. Venial sins can be committed unintentionally, although (as the CCC passage that you cited states) a person may not be culpable for it. However, it is still an action that weakens your relationship with God, and is therefore sinful.

      • Laurenharper

        So many sins fall under categories of mental illness now days. Homosexuality used to be one of these, and alchoholism still is. While the psychological urge to commit the act of bingeing/purging, sleeping with a same-sex partner, or drinking to excess is not a sin in and of itself, and needs treatment, nothing forces us to act on those urges. Once we act on them, we must take responsibility for our actions, even if the temptation was very VERY great. Certainly I would think that the gravity of the sin would be reduced b/c of the mental illness factor, but to say that a person can act on those disordered urges and not offend God is off-base.

        • Alexandra

          Your ignorance is disturbing. “Nothing forces us to act on those urges”? Really? Do you not understand what mental illness is?

          • Anonymous

            I understand a little of mental illness. I repeatedly suffered from one myself (although I’ve been free of it for almost 4 years now.) Anyway, I had to be both hospitalized in a psych ward and medicalized.

            And I agree that in many cases, nothing “forces” us to act on disordered urges. It is rare that *all* decision-making capacity is gone. Sometimes that does happen, though, in which case the person’s culpability is probably non-existent.

            In other cases, decision-making capacity is impaired to varying degrees, not removed entirely. In those situations, unwise decisions in favor of evil actions would result in a reduced moral culpability, accordingly.

            Did you read Mrs. L’s comment on this blog? She suffered from bulimia in the past, and admits that bulimia is a sin, and has a measured and compassionate response.

            I think you need to investigate the difference between an act that is objectively or intrinsically evil (a sin) and how that relates to the culpability of the person. They are not one and the same. A person who commits an evil act may not be at all culpable (a person in the grip of severe psychosis may not hold much moral responsibility for the people he stabbed to death while in it) but that doesn’t make the act of stabbing a person to death neutral. It is still an evil act.

            So the argument is that contraception is a disordered action against natural law – a sin. The relative “sinfulness” of the people who use contraception is a different matter.

            You won’t be so offended by the discussion if you understand the distinction between sin as an action and sinfulness as a state of being.

          • Alexandra

            I’m an atheist so I’m offended by the concept of sin to start with.

          • Cgjernes

            If sin doesn’t exist, and good and evil are meaningless, than Hitler should’ve been left to do his thing.

          • Alexandra

            That doesn’t even make any sense. And I invoke Goodwin’s Law.

          • Sam Woodward

            Why are you here to begin with?

          • Alexandra

            For interesting conversation and to make sure I’m aware of the arguments being employed by theists.

          • http://www.scificatholic.com D. G. D. Davidson

            Don’t invoke Goodwin’s Law; nobody called you Hitler. In this case, Hitler was merely employed as a convenient example.

            Instead, answer Cgjernes’s objection: if there is no such thing as sin (I am assuming that when you say you are personally offended by the concept, you mean because you don’t believe it corresponds with reality), then on what basis do you condemn any action?

        • guest

          Have you had an eating disorder? If not, I highly suggest you refrain from judging whether or not they are sinning.

      • Steve

        There is a major conflation being thrown around here. Bulimia is a psychological disorder, not a mental illness. Many people incorrectly believe that the terms ‘psychological’ and ‘mental’ are interchangeable, but they are not. ‘Mental’ means having to do with the mind. ‘Psychological’ means having to go with behavior. Psychology largely focuses on mental processes because of how much they effect behavior, so the misunderstanding is a very easy one to make.

        The DSM TR-IV, classifies bulimia as an eating disorder, not a mental illness. Bulimia is a behavior based on a disordered belief.

        I also think there is a misunderstanding of sin. Anything that causes harm to anyone in anyway is a sin. Bulimia harms the bulimic person, and is therefore sinful. However, as it has been previously pointed out, the circumstances and intention can lessen the culpability of the person.

        Saying that bulimia is a sin is not the same as saying that the person with bulimia is a bad person.

      • Anonymous

        Can you use “binging and purging” instead of referencing Bulimia? Binging and purging is overall considered a willfull act, where Bulimia is a disorder out of the sufferer’s control.

    • http://intimategeography.wordpress.com/ Barbara

      It might be better to say “bingeing and purging,” rather than bulimia, as some people do so not out of mental illness.

    • http://www.onemoremum.blogspot.com/ Mrs L

      As a former sufferer from bulimia, I would label it (in my own life) as having been a sin. I don’t know if I would have considered that I was mentally ill at the time, nor if that would have diminished my culpability as an individual, but the beginning of my recovery was the conviction and acknowledgement that I was doing something that violated my body, which is an image-bearer for Christ.
      I’ll reiterate- whilst I personally would not say outright that bulimia is sinful, the actions undertaken by a bulimic violate natural law, and by my own conscience, I can condemn those actions undertaken by me as sinful.

    • Maxkolbemedia

      Wow!..This is about as good an article as I’ve read explaining what has always been and continues 2 B a contentious teaching.
      Some people seem to B missing the point though in all these comments about what is and what constitutes a sin…Marc didnt even mention the word sin in relation to the examples used but only stated that the act of Bullimia is disordered objectively not that all Bullimics R sinners.
      Bullimia happens 2 B a great example because it very graphically & obviously illustrates the point here which is that whenever U separate an act from its true end U end with DEATH.

      Whether it b Bullimia or Homosexuality or Divorce or any other OJECTIVELY DISORDERED ACT – regardless of the mental state or culpability of the subject(s) – it messes with reality in such a way that it always leads to misery….this is not an arbitrary imposition of the Church… it’s just what happens when choices like these R made as Marc has so clearly illustrated in other posts.

    • Caroline

      And for some, having another child would constitute aggravation of a known or blossoming mental disorder.

  • ALW

    Fabulous! Witty, slightly scandalous, and well-written.

  • Pro Life and Proud

    Hahaha you are so funny and this is amazing :) Keep it up!

  • editorbelle

    EXCELLENT post. I was recently thinking about writing an NFP post and talking about much of this stuff too, but now I think I’ll just link to your post on my blog. I’m new to your writing and it is awesome!

  • Anonymous

    You had me at the picture from Calvin and Hobbes–the rest of the article was pretty brilliant too! Well done!

  • http://tonyescobar.org/ Tony Escobar

    Natural law is definitely the best argument against the use of contraception. It’s also a good argument against abortion, but so many people fail to make the connection.

    The bottom line: It’s not natural.

  • http://makemeatree.com/ Kayla

    Hypothetically, if we put aside the whole putting dangerous things in your body, what would be the difference between taking a pill to prevent pregnancy and refraining from sex a couple days out of the month to prevent pregnancy? are not the desired ends the same? and is it any more “natural” to NOT have sex when you want to?

    This is where I struggle with this issue. I totally agree with the idea that women shouldn’t be putting something in their body that can harm JUST for the sake of preventing pregnancy. But birth control affects different women in different ways. Some have bad side effects, and some have improved life because of it – treatment of acne, relief from terrible menstrual cramps, etc. Some women get cancer, but a lot dont.

    So I just wonder, for the sake of argument, if we took that part out of the equation, would NFP still be “better”?

    • http://www.clan-donaldson.com/ Cari

      Kayla,
      I think one of the biggest differences between taking a pill to prevent pregnancy and abstaining is this- we are not merely creatures of instinct. We also have reason and discipline. Taking a pill to curtail our fertility encourages us to abandon reason (as you stated by “putting dangerous things in our bodies”) and discipline. Abstaining, even when we really, really, really don’t want to, reminds us that being made in the image of God means that we’re not just animals.

    • LJP

      All forms of contraception offend the marital act in some way…in NFP there is simply no act to offend. Chastity is a virtue, chemical sterilization is not. The desired end may be the same, but the means certainly aren’t. Two men must make money to feed their families, one gets a job, the other robs a bank…the desired end is achieved in both scenarios, does that make them equal?

      • Caroline

        NFP offends the marital act because it prevents it when most people want it the most – when they want to be “unitive” the most. There’s nothing natural about NFP.

        • LJP

          And why do you suppose that women “want to be unitive the most” when they are most fertile? It’s because the sexual urge and human sexuality are ordered toward procreation! Self-control is a virtue. One cannot offend an act that isn’t occurring, that statement is nonsensical.

    • filiusdextris

      LJP and Carl leave a small gap. Catholic married couples who are fertile are called to produce children, unless there is a serious reason not to (there are lots of possible serious reasons, even potentially mere tiredness). So using NFP as opposed to the pill when you are called to “multiply” is using a natural means to avoid procreation with an impermissible intent. When using NFP, both the means and the intent must be morally licit.

    • enness

      Since you mentioned it, there are other ways to treat acne. I know, because I asked. Doctors are human and so sometimes you have to be your own advocate and go out there and get the information about alternatives. Because I was on it long-term I now have an increased risk of triple negative breast cancer (does that go away after cessation? I can’t remember…I know the risk of blood clots does). I may not get cancer, but if I do someday, I will never be sure if this directly had something to do with it. That’s enough to make me uncomfortable.

  • Guest

    Fantastic post, fantastic connection, and fantastic message. I love the natural flourishing point, and it is easily accepted. Please keep writing, God is definitely using you in such a powerful way!

  • Alesse

    So first I should say that I’m agnostic and not against contraception

  • Anonymous

    Great article, but you did leave out discusion of how sex-with-contraceptives differs from sex-during-infertile-periods in a woman’s biological cycle, which is an extremely necessary distinction to make once one has accepted the unitive and procreative ends of sex; leaving it where you have, it looks like the church is only down with sex when a woman is ovulating.

    • Paul

      I will use an analogy. There is a man walking past a Church, he has three options.

      1. He can enter the Church and do what is proper to a Church and Praise God.
      2. He can enter the Church and desecrate it.
      3. He can choose to continue walking and abstain (note the word choice) from entering.

      The first option is positively good, the second is positively bad, and the third is neutral (neither positively good or bad).

      So, to apply this to sex.
      1. During the fertile phase the man may enter the women and do what is proper to that act (positively good).
      2. During the fertile phase the man may enter the women and do what is not proper to that act (positively bad).
      3. He may choose to simply not enter the woman (neutral).

      *Credit due to Christopher West for this analogy.

      • Anonymous

        To clarify, I was critiquing the structure of the article for not including such an explanation, not the theology itself (which I happen to agree with).

        Anyway, that is indeed a lovely analogy!

      • Marc Barnes

        Thanks for that! I might use it in a later post… ( :

  • Alesse

    So first I should say that I’m agnostic and not against contraception, but regardless there is an important flaw in the logic of your argument.

    While hunger, if fulfilled naturally for a long enough time, will most always lead to fullness and foreplay, if fulfilled naturally for a long enough time, will most always lead to orgasm, one can have sex for hours/days/weeks and still not be pregnant. Pregnancy is something that can happen from sex, but is not an essential result.

    A more apt comparison where hunger is concerned would be heartburn, rather than fullness

    None the less though, I enjoyed the article. Very well written.

    • LJP

      This is not an action/consequence argument, this is a design/purpose argument. The digestive system is designed for the purpose of creating energy, the reproductive system is designed for the purpose of creating humans. Using these systems for purposes other than what they were designed for is disordered and creates problems.

    • http://www.facebook.com/techmage89 Paul Fox

      The point is that there are factors to conception outside the direct control of the couple. We trust that God will grant the gift of life if it is His Will.

      However, to actively *refuse* the gift of life that God grants (by using any kind of contraceptive, which actively prevents conception) is to reject God in his gift.

      • Anonymous

        This is the same argument faith healers use about health. If God wants me to be healthy I’ll be healthy and going to the doctor for my son’s persistent cough and fever is proof I don’t have enough faith. How, in your view, are antibiotics okay but condoms aren’t?

        • wineinthewater

          Just consider what you are saying here. You are likening human fertility to a persistent cough, to a disease to be treated. God gives us the gift of sex as an opportunity to participate in the pinnacle of God’s creation: a new human being, a new image of God. And you equate that with disease. One of humanity’s greatest gifts from God is disdained as an inconvenience to be overcome with modern medicine and technology.

          This is the contraceptive mentality. Medicine heals a disease, an injury to the human person. Contraceptives create an injury to the human person.

          • Alexandra

            But so then what you’re talking about is human flourishing and not the Catholic definition of “Natural Law”. Allowing things to progress to their natural end is not automatically what leads to the most human flourishing. Shouldn’t the goal to be achieve the most goodness instead of what is ‘natural’?

            Especially in the case of a married couple that wants to use artificial contraception. They can still achieve intimacy without being open to new life, and can deepen their partnership to become ready to welcome new life into their lives together at the most appropriate time. People may argue that they’re not able to achieve the deepest intimacy that sex provides when they use artificial contraception, but what is the proof that that actually harms a marriage?

          • wineinthewater

            Proving absolute causatives with things like this is difficult. But I think that it is telling that all of the societal ills that Pope Paul VI predicted would come about as a result of normalizing contraception – more divorce, more abortion, more devaluation of the sexual human person, more child abuse – have come about since our society has normalized contraception.

          • Alexandra

            I’m not sure what you mean in terms of child abuse and how that has anything to do with contraception, but to me divorce and abortion are not societal ills. They’re signs of people deciding to make life changes that are most appropriate for them.

            Women having abortions means that they are deciding when to have children and how many children they will have. Divorce means people aren’t settling for bad marriages. Perhaps they shouldn’t have gotten married in the first place, but that has nothing to do with contraception.

            Contraception empowers women to have control over their own lives. If women taking control of their lives and making the hard choices that need to be made is a societal ill, then we’re just not on the same page at all.

          • wineinthewater

            Women having abortions means that human beings are dying.

            Divorces mean that people got into marriages that should have never occurred or let marriages fail, or that someone’s character declined to the point that the marriage should not continue. I see these as negative things, not positives, and don’t see any light that can make them positives.

            Contraception allows woman to take control of their lives .. at a cost. Catholicism teaches a way for women to take control of their lives – either in partnership with a spouse or not – without that cost. The cost of the Catholic response is self-sacrifice .. something very much lacking in our society.

          • Alexandra

            I’m an atheist.

            To me encouraging people to not use contraception and referring to abortion as murder is called slut shaming. Slut shaming is most definitely a social ill.

          • wineinthewater

            If the only way you can make your point is to completely redefine what I said, perhaps you don’t have a good point.

            I said that when a woman has an abortion, a human being dies. That is a factual statement based in science. I didn’t say that it was murder, because not every death, and not even every killing, is murder. I said nothing about the sexual morality of those women.

            Honestly, when it comes to abortion, I count the women who have them toward the bottom of the list of those culpable.

          • Alexandra

            I’m not referring to you in specific. I’m talking about Catholics in general.

  • Alexandra

    I think you don’t understand the benefits that birth control can bring. Not even just in terms of the issues of preventing pregnancy.

    As much as you might think a woman’s hormonal cycle is natural and beautiful, it’s not fun. Some women are nearly nonfunctional hysterical from PMS or PMDD. Many women get painful acne flare ups and there’s typically a lot of water retention and bloating. Cramping can be debilitating some women. Menstrual flow can be very very heavy and often irregular. Some women spot all month long or end up bleeding unexpectedly because their cycle isn’t normal.

    Obviously not everyone experiences all of these symptoms, or to the same degree, but many women do and hormonal birth control can allow a woman to control these symptoms and avoid spending days being hysterical. Can you imagine what it’s like to realize that you’ve bled through your pants because you have an irregular cycle? It’s humiliating, incredibly inconvenient, and uncomfortable.

    Newer generations of birth control have lower doses of hormones so the negative side effects occur at much lower rates.

    You’re an adolescent male, you have little to no perspective on what it is like and how empowering it is to be able to manage the symptoms of menstruation. I’ve spent weeks camping doing field work and used back to back birth control to prevent menstruation. Being able to work without having to worry about menstruation was really liberating.

    • filiusdextris

      I’ll quote Marc’s disclaimer in full: “(Disclaimer: I understand that there are legitimate medical uses for hormonal contraceptives. As Humanae Vitae states “The Church does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there from—provided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever.” This article is written with the assumption that contraception is being used to solely and directly to prevent pregnancy.)”

      • Alexandra

        This certianly isn’t the first article that Marc has written on this topic, and in his other articles he has written about the wrongs in terms of the fact that it alters a woman’s cycle. Altering the cycle is kind of a fantastic benefit, not a horrible side effect.

        Should I go back to those articles to discuss this? Or may I discuss my points in the comment section that is actually active right now?

        • http://www.facebook.com/techmage89 Paul Fox

          It depends on the circumstances, and the intent. It can be a good thing if the woman is celibate, and things aren’t working right. In most other circumstances, it is unnecessary and generally a bad thing.

        • Natalie Ramirez

          Alexandra, I AM a young woman as well who deals with irregular cycles. I also used to be a lifeguard and competitive swimmer. And yes, I agree. The menstrual cycle, quite frankly, is one of the single MOST annoying things. For a week out of a month, I wish that I wasn’t female. Because it SUCKS. So yes, I understand where you’re coming from.

          However, birth control pills – especially the ones that prolong the time between periods – contain a LOT of estrogen. More than your body produces naturally. So the pills are putting too much estrogen into your system, and the way your body handles it is by dumping it into two places: your kidneys and your breast tissue. The stuff in your kidneys leaves your body the same way other chemicals sent to them leaves, but the estrogen in your breasts builds up. And one of the main causes of breast cancer is too much estrogen in the system.

          I think I’d rather have my period, as crappy as it is, than cancer. I’m just sayin’.

          • Marc Barnes

            But don’t settle for that! You can normalize your period naturally and without side-effects: http://www.fertilitycare.org/

          • Anonymous

            I am laughing out loud here…great article, totally. But your statement about “think about foreplay, but not too specifically” followed by a haunting and rather detailed description of what happens to the poor guy who doesn’t get to “finish” had me rolling on the floor–in pain I might add. But what an apt and clear point about natural law…God made us as we are for a reason. And contraception is destructive to that reason. Good stuff as always.

    • Joel

      I’m an adolescent male. You have no idea how embarrassing it is to have your mum clean your sheets and soiled boxers after nocturnal emissions. Happens more than once a month too. But I won’t go on to tell you how empowering and really liberating it is to look at porn and masturbate, because it isn’t.

      • Alexandra

        Very different experiences. Learn to do your own laundry.

        • Joel

          “But your just a girl a wouldn’t understand… ”

          Sound dumb, don’t I? So can we now stop throwing out any “You’re-just-an-adolescent-kid-with-no-perspective” statements from this point on?

          And laundry? It’s one of those front loaders. I can’t even get the door open.

          • Alexandra

            There’s huge differences between going through puberty and not being able to do your own laundry, and being an adult woman who has finished puberty and still has hormonal issues.

    • Amanda

      Alexandra, I’m a girl and I know what that is all about. Sometimes i’ve had it pretty bad and I even have passed out in school before from it. It sucks a lot for some. But if you read that little disclaimer note under the picture of the T-rex in an airplane, you will see that the church does not forbid the use of thes types of medications if it is for a medical reason such as listed and not for the motives a preventing procreation. I personally would still not use the pills considering they cost money and I’m willing to put up with it…. (as long as I don’t start passing out on a regular bases)

    • http://www.onemoremum.blogspot.com/ Mrs L

      I understand what you are saying- but remember that Marc is not speaking about women who take birth control pills as a means of controlling PMS etc (although, there are brilliant natural remedies for those things that I would always recommend first before the pill- knowing women who’ve had blood clots from taking the pill for these reasons).
      He is speaking about the use of contraception to prevent conception.
      I would also add that I am a woman who has experience of these things, and that menstruating is but one part of a woman’s reproductive life. As someone who has been reproducing steadily since she married, I have had very few cycles and the symptoms of which you describe. Added to which, the severity of these symptoms often decrease dramatically after child-bearing has commenced.
      My feeling is that God did not design a woman of reproductive age to be constantly menstruating, thus the need for non-parous women to control symptoms with drugs. Reproducing during my reproductive years has been hugely beneficial to my overall health as a woman.

      • Anonymous

        You don’t use your own name. You probably don’t have a job. Great for you, but I and all of my friends are not like that. I have two sons and that’s quite enough. I like chocolate but I don’t eat 10 pounds at a time, and I do not and never did want to be constantly pregnant. That puts me in company with the overwhelming majority of the world’s women. I had two kids and I intend to raise them well. I couldn’t do that with a litter, and only a vanishingly tiny number of women can do that well with more than three kids.

    • enness

      I understand, and so does the Church. The thing is, I worry that it more often than not becomes a solution of first resort and convenience than getting down to the real problem. Case in point: myself. I was on the Pill for, I think, just shy of a decade (celibate!). I tried to go off it once and the condition of my skin took such a nosedive over the course of a year that you would not have thought it was the same person, and I was embarrassed to wear any top with straps. I went back to the gyn with my tail between my legs. Then I talk to a derm, and she tells me there’s a medication that does the same thing without containing synthetic hormones itself. What?? Where has this been all my life? I told the gyn I wanted to try it, and she is familiar enough with it to discuss it with me (because it’s not entirely devoid of potential issues, but so far, so good), but — lovely doctor though she is, please don’t get me wrong! — had never suggested it even when I expressed my desire to get off hormones; I’m not sure why, although I tend to give the benefit of the doubt.

      Being able to micromanage my cycle was cool for a while. Then it occurred to me just how scary it is to be able to use a pill so powerful it can turn it on and off like a faucet. Forget a few times, which is kind of inevitable with my schedule now and then, and wind up with a three-week-long period. Not. Fun. At. All. It was about this time that I also read about how it is excreted, gets into the water and doesn’t get adequately filtered out, and messes up the fish. That was it.

      • Erin

        It’s not only messing up fish. Our current filtration systems cannot remove human hormones from our drinking water, so for the last several decades, we have been constantly sipping feminizing hormones. Think about the possible effects this could be having, on women and girls, and on men and boys, and then think about all the rising instances of things like autism spectrum disorders, puberty coming on earlier and earlier (especially for girls) . . . This is what needs to be studied in the following decades, if one can get past the drug companies.

      • Alexandra

        The point about the environmental effects of oral contraceptives is largely overstated. The majority of the synthetic hormones in water are from BPAs, fertilizers, and dairy production.

        Here’s a good summary article:

        http://www.arhp.org/publications-and-resources/contraception-journal/august-2011

        • Erin

          “ARHP was founded by Alan Guttmacher in 1963 as the education arm of Planned Parenthood® Federation of America (PPFA) and incorporated as an independent organization in 1972″

          Your source has a reason to state that the environmental effects of oral contraceptives are overstated . . . a stake in the game, as it were.

          • Alexandra

            Okay, but if you read the papers it cites you can make your own judgment.

            I’m not sure why you think that Planned Parenthood or the ARHP would lie about facts like that. If you really do believe it, then there’s no reasoning with you anyway.

          • Erin

            No need to get presumptuous. I read the papers it cites, and I am making my own judgment. All the evidence seems to point to the fact that OCs are minimal contributors — not a non-contributor — to synthetic hormones in the environment. Same arguments still apply.
            It may not be the strongest reason to reject OCs (perhaps the fact that the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified Estrogen-progestogen oral contraceptives as a Class I carcinogen?), but it’s a valid reason nevertheless.
            And as for why I would think Planned Parenthood (and its affiliates) would lie? Just going on past behavior,such as the lie that it actually does provide mammograms.

        • Longbow2236

          Alexandra: You are fooling yourself. Take a look at Boulder Creek findings. The first listed hormone is estradiol, advertised in hormonal contraceptives.

          http://www.epa.gov/caddis/ssr_urb_ww4.html

          http://www.webmd.com/drugs/drug-5186-estradiol+oral.aspx?drugid=5186&drugname=estradiol+oral

    • Ldmarkfam

      Alexandra,
      BCPs don’t correct any of the gynecological problems you’ve listed. Stop the pill, and the problem is still there. They are a band aid at best. There is a way to effectively treat and correct those conditions to free women from their very real suffering, it’s called NaProTechnology: http://www.fertilitycare.org.

  • Reality_Check

    Medieval anti-woman B.S….and less than 2% of lay Catholics even follow it!

    • http://www.facebook.com/techmage89 Paul Fox

      Their loss… and yours. Contraceptives are not the least bit good for women, men, society, or anyone really.

      • DD

        Are you kidding? Countless lives have been saved as a result of using condoms. Period. You can’t even argue that one because its fact.

        • Matt Rogers

          What lives were saved?
          lives were only stunted, not even allowed the opportunity to flourish. Condoms just keep lives from being lives. They’re basically premature abortion (that’s a far stretch i know).

        • enness

          Oh, I bet we can.

        • Chip Hopr

          Humanae Vitae goes….here.

        • James H

          “Countless lives have been saved as a result of using condoms.”
          Where, pray tell? The freakin’ WHO has admitted that condom promotion has had sod-all effect on the AIDS epidemic.

        • Bill

          I have to disagree DD. In Africa, for example, in countries trying to practice Catholic teaching (abstinence),there is less AIDS than in those countries who would be taught to use condoms. We know AIDS kills. Condoms are no where near 100% effective in preventing HIV and other STD’s or conception for that matter. Here is one article:

          http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2011/09/what-impact-does-catholic-teaching-have.html

          • http://www.facebook.com/julieta424 Julieta Contreras

            Riiight!! This is from a column “Condoms and Aids”

            “If the problem is that people are pounding each other’s toes with sledge hammers, you can give them steel-toe shoes, or you can help them to respect their feet and find a better use for sledge hammers. What’s the real solution? If you choose the former, shoe companies (read: condom companies) will love you for it. If you choose the latter, there’s a lot of educational work to be done” Christopher West!

            http://christopherwest.com/page.asp?ContentID=116

        • http://www.scificatholic.com D. G. D. Davidson

          I’ll argue it. Abstinence is 100% effective in preventing STDs. Since the so-called Sexual Revolution with all its contraceptives, we have had an enormous increase in both sexually trasmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. Throwing condoms at the problem does not appear to help much.

          In Africa, where the HIV rate is extremely high, once the numbers are crunched, it appears that condoms actually help spread the disease rather than prevent it; because of the condom failure rate in Africa, a philanderer, even if he uses a condom consistently and correctly, runs an almost 100% chance of being exposed to HIV. On the other hand, abstinence programs have been effective on that continent, though Westerners have a hard time grasping that, since we have in recent decades shown a distinct inability to keep our wank-poles in our trousers, an inability that is not shared by people from other parts of the world.

    • Kp

      Where’d you get that statistic?

      • Alexandra

        It’s a real statistic. It’s based on a Guttmacher Institute study in 2002. Here’s an article about it:

        http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/13/us-contraceptives-religion-idUSTRE73C7W020110413

        • enness

          The article you link to doesn’t mention anything about condoms saving lives. I have a hunch that is not a fact, but rather, an interpretation of facts.

          • Alexandra

            That article was about the fact that only 2% of Catholic women use NFP. It wasn’t supposed to be about condoms.

          • enness

            Okey doke, seems that the way the thread went made it unclear what statistic was being asked for.

        • Sam Woodward

          They use one once in their lives… That means very little you know?

          • Alexandra

            That’s not what the survey says. It says that only 2% of Catholic women use NFP. Not that only 2% of Catholic women have never used contraceptives. Indeed the women who use NFP might also be using contraceptives.

          • Caroline

            Exactly

    • enness

      Am I supposed to be more impressed by the 98% who don’t, or the 2% who do (hey look guys, I am the 2%!), in spite of enormous social pressure? Does this not show just how thoroughly people have been hoodwinked?

    • Chip Hopr

      Don’t feed the troll.

    • Phil

      I guess 98% of women aren’t aware of it.

    • Goldiemil48

      Can we please stop using that statistic? 100% of practicing Catholics in communion with the church are not using any form of artificial contraception for the purpose of avoiding pregnancy. I can call myself a genius but that doesn’t give me a Ph.D from Harvard. For that I have to follow the school’s requirements.

      • Alexandra

        So how do you determine who is a practicing Catholic?

        • Goldiemil48

          A person who follows the essential teachings of the Catholic Church. In practice who is currently in communion with the church and who is not is only known by God, each person, and their confessor.

        • Annony11

          By definition, a practicing Catholic is one who practices their faith. Using artificial contraception for the purpose of preventing pregnancy is against church teaching. Ergo, one who uses contraception for the purpose of preventing pregnancy is not practicing the Catholic faith. If someone is not practicing the Catholic faith, why should they claim to be a practicing Catholic?

          If someone’s not Catholic, they’re not Catholic. Fine, that’s not a problem. There are plenty of wonderful people who are not Catholic and their non-Catholicity does not make them a bad person. What I (and, I believe, Goldiemil48) take issue with is people who flaunt their misunderstanding of and disrespect for church teaching while claiming to be part of the church.

          • PracticingCatholic

            I feel rather judged here, and perhaps I deserve it, but I identify myself as a practicing Catholic (Mass every Sunday, sometimes a weekday mass, confession, etc) and I take oral contraceptives. I am certainly not proud of this connundrum, nor do I flaunt it, but it’s there nonetheless. There are so very few Catholics who are not guilty of some practice that is not in accordance of the Church’s teaching, that I find it hard to believe that because of this one particular thing I am not a practicing Catholic. If it only takes one sin, even one very serious sin, to qualify an individual as a non-practicing Catholic, how are there any ‘practicing’ Catholics left?
            I love this blog, and tend to agree with most postings on here, but I find the “definition of a practicing Catholic” just above offensive. One can still practice the Catholic religion and consider themself to be of the Catholic faith even if a rule is failed to be adhered to. It is up to that individual to realize they are wrong and confess in hopes of forgiveness, not to be judged as a non-practicing Catholic for that single reason.

          • wineinthewater

            I think the “who is a real Catholic” discussions are rather ridiculous. A Catholic is a person who was baptized in union with the Catholic Church and never turned apostate.

            We’re all bad Catholics. We all sin.

            Now, that is different from someone who dissents from the Catholic faith. That is heterodoxy or heresy. Unfortunately, we can get so caught up in our sin that we try to “de-sin-ify” it rather than repent. That kind of heterodoxy and heresy is a problem. It injures us, it injures our relationship with God, it injures our relationship with others. But it doesn’t make us no longer Catholic.

            Orthodoxy isn’t the end of our quest for righteousness, it is only the beginning.

          • Alexandra

            You’re probably offended by the definition because it is offensive. It’s pious, nasty, and judgmental.

          • Goldiemil48

            When you go to confession you say the act of contrition which sums up the point of confession. Loosely paraphrased it says this: I am sorry for my sins because they offend you. I promise to amend my life and commit these sins no more.

            If you don’t intend to amend your life you may as well not even go to confession. Taking oral contraception is a serious sin that you can be forgiven for according to the Church, but you need to be sorry for it and fully intend to never do it again. If you do intend to do it again you remain not in communion with the church. This doesn’t mean you can’t go to mass or confession, of course you should. You should however talk with your priest in confession about receiving communion.

            Only God can judge you but it is up to the Church to tell you what is right and wrong, it is up to you to follow.

          • Annony11

            Goldiemil48 covered most of what I would say but here goes…

            First off, I’m not judging. That’s God job, thankfully, and as He is the only one who is omniscient, I’m happy to leave it to him.

            Secondly, all Catholics sin. We’re only human, after all. Sinning does not mean one is not a practicing Catholic. It’s the resolve not to sin and to avoid the near-occasion of sin which is important. I could acknowledge that something is a sin, gluttony for example, and go to confession. However, if I have no intention of trying to cut down on how much I eat and continue the next day with my regimen of two cartons of Oreos, six Big Macs, a large pizza, etc, then the confession essentially is saying to God, “yes, I agree that it’s wrong to eat this much but I have no intention of changing anything.” This does not mean that if I confessed and resolved not to sin, I would throw away all junk food and never eat another Oreo for the rest of my life. That could happen. Or, with a firm resolve, I could go home, do better for a few days, slowly slip back into old habits, and be back in confession a few weeks later. The importance is the decision not to sin.

            You say you are not proud of the conundrum and recognize it as a serious sin. That’s an important step. But, without trying to change, the words seem rather empty. (Of course, if you take the oral contraceptives for some other medical reason, the whole argument is moot because it’s not a sin — even if you are married and having sex. That would fall under the principle of double effect.)

            Again, as Goldiemil48 said, it’s great to still continue to go to Mass and Confession, but definitely discuss receiving Communion with your priest.

        • http://www.facebook.com/julieta424 Julieta Contreras

          Honestly, it’s not for us to judge.

          in the words of CS LEWIS: It is not for us to say who, in the deepest sense, is or is not close to the spirit of Christ. We do not see into men’s hearts. We cannot judge, and are indeed forbidden to judge.

          That being said, some people claim to be something they are not all the time and we should learn to discern so as not to follow and fall into their mistakes ourselves.

          I also know there are a lot of people who are trying to follow their faith to the best of their ability and still struggle.

          If for example their struggle is with contraception, it is not for me to say “they’re not christian”, but rather try to instruct them in the right way and that person might even say: “I am a Christian, I also struggle with this” but not: “I am a Christian, Pro Choice and Proud”… That would be a contradiction or simply ignorance.

          None of us are perfect and none of us live the faith 100%…. That should not either an excuse to stop trying or an excuse to keep sinning. I’m a practicing Catholic, but I’d be a liar if I said I never sin and Sinning by nature and definition is against church teaching so there has to be more to the word Catholic.

          “You will know them by their fruits.” Matt 7:16

      • Alexandra

        What doesn’t that mean exactly? To be in ‘communion’ with the Church?

        I think the thing is that you’re just redefining things. The fact still remains that the majority people who identify themselves as Catholic do not use NFP. Whether or not that makes them Catholic by this definition is irrelevant to the fact that NFP is not popular among people who the more general definition used in surveys.

        • Goldiemil48

          I am saying that the statistic is flawed because anyone can call themselves Catholic, that doesnt mean that they are. I can identify myself as pro-choice because I believe in a person’s right to choose where they live. That’s what I think pro-choice means. Do you see the problem here? People identify themselves as Catholic for all sorts of reasons. Many of them haven’t darkened a church doorway since they were kids. The definition of a Catholic is someone who adheres to the essential teachings of the Church and tries their best to model their lives around them. By this definition, not one single Catholic is using artificial contraception at this moment.

          • Alexandra

            I see your point, but it’s a semantic one. It doesn’t change the fact that of people who society generally recognize as Catholic, very few of them actually adhere to the Church teaching on contraception. The statistic is only making that claim. Of people who identified themselves as Catholic, only 2% of them, were using NFP as their primary birth control method.

          • Goldiemil48

            What does that have to do with contraception being good or bad? And can you come up with a more vague description of a demographic than that? I could commission a study and take my dog named Society to the park and tell her to identify me some Catholics and then ask everyone she walks up to and sniffs whether or not they use NFP. That “study” would fall under the definition of “people who society generally recognize as Catholic”

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=8359245 Pamela Koo

          I think the problem comes from the usual misunderstanding of what the Church is.

          If the Church is just a set of thoughts that make one feel good, then sure, one could be “in communion” and still disagree with a few things. I like being an American citizen but I think some of her laws are ridiculous (like abortion being legal). I can still be a good citizen of the US while disagreeing with some of her policies.

          However, if the Church is an institution that teaches all Truth that comes directly from God, one cannot reject a part of her without rejecting the entire truth. One cannot teach ALL truth and be wrong on something she teaches as true. Logically, she does not then teach ALL truth, only some of it. And if one part is wrong, then any part could be wrong.

          It is the second that the Church claims she is – a divine institution who passes on what she has received from her God who founded her. And she does indeed teach that birth control is contrary to those teachings. To claim that she has that teaching wrong is to claim that she does not indeed teach all things from God, and thus is not indeed the divine institution she claims to be.

          To reject one Church teaching is to reject them all – thus one cannot reject part of Church teaching without separating themselves from communion with the Church herself.

          That’s not to say we can’t fail – failure to live up to the Church’s teachings in and of itself acknowledges those teachings as true even while we realize that we are weak creatures who sometimes stumble. That’s what confession is for – for God to take us by the hand, dust us off, and put us back on the right path.

      • Feeneyja

        And what that stat also does is ignores all of the women (like me and other I know) who HAVE used contraception and have realized the Church was right. I believe there is a stat going around that says 80% of Catholic women have used contraception at one time or another, and it’s being used to justify the HHS ruling. This is deplorable. I will not have my sins the cause for forcing others to sin!

    • fabius

      This is very subtle spin. That stat comes from a Guttmacher report which says that 98% of women have reported using contraceptives “at some point in time.” By no means are anywhere near 98% of women actively using it “right now.” There’s a huge number who may have used it in the past, but don’t now. And that doesn’t even account for women who use it for purely health (non-sexual) reasons.

      I’m quite sure that a very large number of practicing Roman Catholics still use contraceptives, but it’s not “98%” by any means.

      • Alexandra

        You’re actually thinking about it incorrectly. Only 2% of the Catholic women surveyed said that they used NFP. It wasn’t that 98% of them said they’d used contraceptives at some point in their lives, only 2% of them said they used NFP. That means that there could be overlap. People who use both NFP and condoms or people who used to use NFP but don’t anymore.

        • http://www.scificatholic.com D. G. D. Davidson

          More importantly, the Guttmacher Institute excluded from its study women who were celibate and women who were trying to get pregnant, as well as women who were postpartum or currently pregnant, and women not between 15 and 44. The Institute was only interested in studying what kind of contraception women “at risk” for pregnancy were using; the study was interested only in women who were having sex but did not want children. It was not a study to determine how many Catholic women overall were using contraception, but it’s been abused that way. The 98% statistic is worthless.

      • Karina

        I am part of the 98%; I am unmarried, thus I remain chaste.

        In other news, this statistic is stupid.

    • Tally Marx

      I’m a woman; I don’t find it anti-woman. I’m actually offended you find it anti-woman, as that seems to assume I need birth control, because I have no self control or responsibility. I don’t need some pill or contraceptive to “protect” me. If I needed protection from my boyfriend, I have enough good sense not to be with him. And if he claimed to need protection from me… I’d slap him.

      • Sam Woodward

        Like a BOSS

      • Caroline

        Wow! Hope you don’t ever find yourself reaaalllly sexually atttracted to someone some day! Saints have fallen for lesser! Your comments are so smug, although I get the basic gist of them and agree that too many people are irresponsible with their sexual choices.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=8359245 Pamela Koo

      Yeah. 100% of my students can come into my class thinking a whale is a fish but that doesn’t make them right, does it? It just means they had some pretty shoddy teaching in their past.

    • http://www.facebook.com/julieta424 Julieta Contreras

      And if only 2% of Catholics went to Church should we abandon that practice too? This isn’t medieval…. ITS MUCH OLDER THAN THAT! God’s way tends to be :) and It doesn’t matter what you or I think because in the end WE want to do things God’s way, (at least I assume you do too, forgive me if I’m taking liberties.)

  • wife and mom

    I love this! So well done!

    I want to talk more about the .2% statistic. What is it about NFP use that makes marriages virtually divorce-proof? What about those who have a “providentialist” outlook and neither contracept nor use NFP? My husband and I do not use any form of birth regulation other than not getting around to it. ;) If you asked me this week, I might say we were going to be part of the .2%, though. (Just kidding. Kind of.) But really, I’d like to hear more about this.

    • Mike

      It is not that using NFP _causes_ a 0.2% divorce rate. Simply that there is a correlation between 0.2% divorce rate and NFP. I think the reason for this is likely that anyone who takes the time to use NFP is obviously very committed to their spouse. Of course, you can be just as committed without using NFP, but in this case you are in a statistical group with people who don’t use NFP and may not be as committed.

      • Caroline

        That 0.2% stat is soooo old and unprovable.

    • Anonymous

      You and your husband almost certainly belong to a religion that condemns divorce. If you have used NFP successfully then you have a very regular cycle naturally and your husband is exceptionally understanding about having periods of the month when he can’t touch you at all. (See the original post’s discussion about the pain of an unused erection.) If you don’t use any form of birth regulation, then you can’t have a job because you’re pregnant most of the time and therefore have no way of continuing to eat and live indoors if you divorce.

      • wineinthewater

        It’s a myth that NFP can only be used if the wife has a very regular cycle. My wife has an very irregular cycle and it works just fine for us. We have to be more conservative with its use, true, but it works just fine.

        And as a husband, I find the standard you set for husbands to be distressingly low. NFP does require sacrifice, but it does not require an exceptional level of understanding. It requires the level of understanding that should be considered pretty much minimum for a husband. The notion that only exceptionally understanding husbands would put their own sexual needs after the good of their wives is evidence of a profoundly flawed set of values. And if sex is the only way a couple can express emotional intimacy, there’s something wrong in the marriage.

        • Anonymous

          I wish all husbands were as understanding as you claim to be. In real life, they aren’t. They certainly aren’t that understanding all the time. You set the ideal as the only permissible behavior; I accept that ideals don’t exist in reality.

          • wineinthewater

            It is a sad state of affairs when a husband putting his wife’s well being before his own sexual gratification could be considered the “ideal” instead of part of a minimum standard of decency. I would place the ideal somewhere much more Christlike.

            Now I’m sorry if this seems a harsh, but if your standards for men and husbands is so low, it really works against using your contracepting marriage as an anecdote contrary to Catholic teaching.

          • Anonymous

            I live in the real world. If you never, ever pressure your wife for sex and you do exactly half the housework, then very truly, good for you. I commend you. You are, actually one in several million.

            Also, if your wife never scolds or complains, the she is also one in more than a million. Saints are very rare creatures. The rest of us sinners prefer to have some way to mitigate the misery we inflict on the world.

          • wineinthewater

            I would put “puts wife’s physical, emotional and spiritual welfare before his own sexual gratification” quite a bit below doing half the housework, never scolding or never complaining. The real world may be fallen, but to mistake the standards of a fallen world for the ideal is to completely miss the point of Christianity and sanctification. Jesus did not take on our humanity, die on the cross and rise from the dead so that we could be as good as the average schmoe.

          • Caroline

            And again, some WOMEN want the sexual gratification.

          • wineinthewater

            That’s fine and good. But it goes both ways. I would say that wives putting their husbands’ physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being before their own sexual gratification is a minimum standard of decency in a marriage.

        • Caroline

          And what if being conservative in its use means you are so emotionally separated from your spouse that your marriage has become intolerable? Did the church ever think of that? No, I didn’t think so.

          • wineinthewater

            Yes she did. The Church takes a vision of marriage where emotional connection is grounded in far more than just sex. If the only way a couple can stay emotionally connected is through relatively constant sex, then it is a rather stunted marriage to begin with.

  • Jamison

    I disagree to a certain extent. You state “The natural end of sex is both unity and procreation. Love and life.” I don’t agree that it’s an “and” but an “and/or”. By the logic you’re presenting here it could even be said that having sex during a time in a woman’s cycle that does not have the highest chance of procreation is against the natural order. Since according to your reasoning you can’t have one without the other.

    There are people who are amazing at practicing NFP, and nail their cycles every single month. They go for years, even decades, without procreating. How is that any different in your logic than someone who chooses to sterilize or use blocking-contraception*? They are making a conscious choice to not procreate, while still engaging in the unifying aspect of sex. Aren’t they denying the nature of letting things reach their natural conclusion? In my marriage we utilized condoms until we were ready to have our children. How is that any different than just getting good at NFP?

    *As a side note, I’m opposed to any type of contraception that allows the egg and sperm to meet, but then terminates a pregnancy before it begins. If the egg and sperm somehow connect, then things need to be allowed to continue on, or it’s akin to abortion in my mind.

    • Mary B

      One main difference between NFP and other blocking-contraception is that one involves abstaining while the other involves blocking. NFP users avoid pregnancy by not having sex at certain times. When they do have sex, the act itself is complete and unhindered. On the other hand, condoms interfere in the marital act, unnaturally removing the procreative element.

      According to Church teaching, there are four elements necessary for sex to reflect true married love:

      1. Freely chosen
      2. Permanent gift to the spouse
      3. Self-giving: spouses give their whole selves (not themselves minus their fertility)
      4. Open to life: by not imposing barriers, NFP practicing couples still leave the marital act open to the gift of a child, even if conception is unlikely.

      • Caroline

        Let me know how you’re all doing on giving your whole self to your spouse in all the other areas of your life. Who are we kidding? We’re a bunch of sinners rotting down here in the valley of tears! Those elements are pretty damn lofty for us fallen sinners. Which is why, of course, talking about much of this is utter nonsense. And as the world gets crappier and crappier, the chances that even well-meaning Catholics seeking a holy life can live up to this perfect little checklist go down day by day.

    • benodo

      The key is the act itself. Not the end. The Church does not claim that not having children (if there is good reason to not have them) is wrong. Those that “get good at NFP” and go for years without having children, for no good reason, are in the wrong. Those that do have good reason and go years without having children are in a very different place than a couple who would use say a condom. Using a barrier in a specific marital act destroys, in that specific act, what sex was created to be. When a NFP couple, again for good reason, abstains during a fertile period but then has sex during a non-fertile period, they are not perverting in any way that particular act that is taking place. I know this seems like a shell game, I was there once my self. I think the key to understanding the Church’s position is to realize that the issue is not the ends of whether the act produces children every time but rather the means. Contraception is a morally illicit means not an end. Abstinence during a fertile period is making a choice to not have children for the time being, but in and off itself is not a moralyl illicit act, again the issue is means not the ends.

  • Reality_Check

    BTW so the church favors outlawing contraception like it favors outlawing abortion? Would the pill be an illegal drug in the ideal Catholic nation?

    • http://www.facebook.com/techmage89 Paul Fox

      I don’t think that passes muster on purely practical concerns. This is clearly a personal choice (except in the case of abortificants, such as the “morning after” pill), and I haven’t heard anyone talk serious about outlawing it, any more than tobacco or alcohol.

      Besides, there are legitimate medical uses for the pill for celibate women.

    • Hans Bayer

      Are you suggesting that the catholic church take over the legal system? Since there is a separation of church and state, your point has no basis. In America at least.

      • Marion (Mael Muire)

        “Since there is a separation of church and state, . . . .”

        Not any more there isn’t: The state now wants to call the shots as to what the Church says and does. Religious-run adoption agencies must violate their religious principles and adopt out to same-sex and unmarried couples or there will be legal sanctions against those agencies. Religious-run hospitals must violate their religious principles and provide their employees insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization, and abortion.

        That is the state coming in and telling religious entities to violate their conscience, either by providing services in a objectionable manner which is a violation, or by not providing services at all, which is also a violation.

        “Separation of Church and state”, indeed! Would to God we would tell the State to go to hell.

    • Matt Rogers

      I do not believe the Catholic Church have any interest in making laws (or at least they have no business in it). The Church and State are deliberately separate. Jesus was clear on this when He came and tried to enlighten the Pharisees who were stuck thinking of too many rules and being governed by their religion. Jesus was clear that they were separate. It’s about the person being of right mind, for example, just outlawing abortion in America would put an end to it. There would always be some work around in some shady building or other country even. The way to end it would be a ubiquitous change of heart. That is the ultimate goal, for everyone to be of the same right mind and not have a need for laws. This reminds me (and most likely you perhaps) of the garden of Eden, in a perfect world, there were no laws or police officers. Yes, that was a perfect world and we live in a fallen world today but that does not change the fact that we are still to strive for a more perfect world. In the context of this article, it would be to change the minds and hearts of today’s culture. As numerous people have noted saying that it is just today’s culture that makes contraceptives and pre-marital sex okay. But is that even an excuse. Absolutely not. That is a pansy way of being lazy and ignoring the problems in the world. I think finally coming back to your point, the pill would not illegal. It would not exist. There would be no demand for it.

      • fabius

        Bro, work on your punctuation, or I will have the gf learn you a thing or two, and send your writing samples to Mom. But you’re dead on (if in a roundabout way).

        Roman Catholics don’t want to legislate against contraceptives, that’s not something you can or should do. Abortion yes, because your’e infringing on the rights of innocent individuals.

        Contraception’s one of those things you wouldn’t have in an ideal world. Frankly it is conducive towards sexual permissiveness, but it’s one of those things that has to be reduced through cultivation of virtue, not government action.

        And Reality Check should at least try to understand the RC point of view on this. Whether or not progressives believe that traditional religion stifles women, they ought to be honest enough to understand that the intention of us stodgy medieval sacramentalists is exactly the opposite.

        • Mic

          the selfishness, dirtiness, unhealthfulness and self-destruction of contraception usage is just what all these people seem to not understand. They are too busy enjoying living the lies that such people convince them of, to use contraception as a “good” to avoid pregnancy etc. Its the greatest lie of the century. One of the saddest things about those who use promote and defend contraception (esp those who twistedly think babies and lovemaking are 2 opposite things), is that one day, they will realize it……I have seen it over and over and over and over and over again how people regret this. They end up dying of breast cancer, fighting cancers of all nasty kinds, and live to see their 1 or 2 children they actually were able to conceive live on without a mother.

          very sad.

  • J _

    I hope this comment is not perceived as ‘blatantly trolling’ because I am genuinely interested in this subject – however i find this article completely unconvincing, and therefore insufficient to provide an explanation as to why contraception is a bad idea.

    The article, as shown by its reliance on the vague use of the dangerously polysemic and always political term ‘natural’, appears to triumph only by oversimplification. Instead of laboriously challenging every distinct point, an exercise that will most likely frustrate all involved, I instead want to draw attention to a circumstance in which contraception is (at least in my mind) a positive, and which is not explained by this article.

    The young adult (particularly university student) based culture of ‘going out’ is closely intertwined with sexual relationships. This of course, would not be condoned by the Catholic Church. I am not catholic, but I also dislike and disagree with this culture. However I also accept that it currently exists, and see that the encouragement of usage of contraception is incredibly important in preventing many potential cases of sexually transmitted infections. You say in the above article that it is concerned with the instance of sex with the aim of procreation, however by disassociating your argument from any other kind of sex you move away from a complete argument against the uses of contraceptive.

    I understand how the Catholic doctrine teaches against use of contraception from the above article. However, the only way that this can be brought into harmony with the claim of the title: ‘Why Contraception is a bad idea’, is if the reader is also catholic. whilst the article will likely be circulated amongst people of similar beliefs, it will also be (thanks to the marvels of social networking) exposed to people with many different spiritual beliefs. As such, surely it is the responsibility of the author to create a convincing argument for why the position held by the Catholic church on contraception is a ‘better’ one, beyond simplified claims to ‘nature’, that will surely impress the assumed catholic reader?

    • dt

      J,
      Good can never be justified by doing evil. The ends never justify the means. Preventing STD’S, and the spread of disease is certainly “good,” however, doing evil to get this good is not justified, it’s morally wrong. This analogy may be illuminating. The desire for sexual relations is a good within the context of marriage, so the desire is not illicit; however, if one commits rape to fulfill this desire, it is not justified. If that analogy doesn’t help, consider this. The desire to make money to raise your family is a good thing. But cheating and stealing to carry out this good end, is not justified because evil was done to obtain it. Hope this helps.

      • J _

        dt, thank you for your reply but I fear you have misunderstood my point: it is exactly this kind of oversimplification through blunt analogy that is problematic for me when used as apparent evidence for such a bold claim as ‘why contraception is a bad idea’. I’m not trying to change anybody’s
        definitions (whether personal or doctrinal) of what is ‘good’ and what it ‘evil’. To demonstrate why this is not of interest to me, I would retort that I see the allowance of the spreading of sexual diseases amongst society as an ‘evil’ (i use this term only demonstratively) end, that can be prevented by the ‘good’ (as before) act of encouraging contraceptive use for those that will be taking part in sexual relations.

        Please also understand that I do not blankly condone so-called ‘promiscuous behaviour’. Rather I see it as a symptom of many complicated and intertwined problems in our society. But the fact is that it is there – it is a culture that is even perpetuated and encouraged by university unions, and popular nightclubs in their use of sexually suggestive promotion. It is because of this unfortunate (and arguably tragic) state of the notion of sexual promiscuity as being ‘ingrained’ in our modern society that, for me, contraception is necessary as a fundamental measure against disease WHILST we (as a society, regardless of our belief systems) should work towards a way out of the problems that currently exist. I would also argue that this will come about through a greater knowledge and deeper understanding of the problems (ie. a ‘complication’), rather than through oversimplified and therefore powerful analogies.

        • LJP

          It is not the author that has oversimplified, it is you (and modernism in general) that has over-complicated. You say the author has only considered “sex with the aim of procreation”. First, procreation is not the “aim” of every sexual act, but it is the innate purpose of every sexual act (basic biology). The pleasure derived from sex is simply the carrot dangling in front of us. Second, the author only treats one “kind of sex”, because that is all there is. Society may deem genital play and mutual masturbation as sex, but that doesn’t make it so.

          And be careful not to confuse “laws of nature” with “natural law”, it seems you may be.

          • Ldmarkfam

            LJP,
            the pleasure of sex certainly is enticing, but is to be understood as a good because it is the union of two persons.

          • LJP

            Absolutely, of course. Thanks for the addition.

          • swift

            LJP….you are so right! It is modernism that has oversimplified something so incredibly beautiful, sacred, and awesome that requires high reverence, boundaries and the act of real love and control of self rather than using ones whims and desires to run a simply-pleasure-seeking life that can lead to a total disastrous consequences.

        • Ut Christus Regnet

          You make some legitimate points. However, it seems to me that contraception enables people to act like they do. Sorry to use an analogy, but it’s like giving money to a drug addict. What do you think people are going to do when contraception is so widely available? They’re going to say, “Hey, great, sex with no consequences!” Just like the addict, who says, “Hey, great, more money to buy crack with!” Contraception is an enabler. Until it is eliminated or pushed to the margins of our society, promiscuity will continue to be widespread.

        • Helpful

          J_
          I didn’t see anyone mention this yet, but I appreciate that fact that although you disagree, you made a conscious effort to refrain from trolling. Bravo. I will attempt to do the same to you.

          It seems to me that your basic argument is that people are going to have sex anyway, so we should just give them contraception and then at least they won’t have babies. I could be wrong, but this is the argument I see, so it’s the one I’m going to refute.

          Thee are two flaws with this argument. The first part of the argument says people are going to have sex anyway, because it’s ingrained in our culture. This is flawed. Yes, sex is ingrained in our culture. The “hook-up” culture, as I have heard it called, treats sex as no big deal. One could argue this is a result of contraception but we won’t go there. The fact is that sex is a big deal. Just because culture is wrong doesn’t mean we should just let it be. I know you can’t convert the whole world, but it’s also not a good idea to just sit and watch it burn.

          The second flaw with the above argument is with the implication that babies are a problem. Now you never actually said this, but I saw it implied in your argument. Perhaps it’s because I see sex as a means to babies, and it’s what contraception takes away. By definition, contraception is against conception (of babies) so using it would be to keep people form having babies. Now I know there are other uses, notably the prevention of STD’s (which most contraception is not as good at as it claims, if you do a bit more research) but the definition is to prevent conception, and a baby. So at the risk of sounding like a troll I will repeat what Catholics have been repeating throughout this whole debate: BABIES ARE NOT PUNISHMENTS FOR UNPROTECTED SEX, NOR ARE THEY PROBLEMS TO BE AVOIDED. Babies are wonderful new lives, and very necessary for the continuation of our species. Now I know having a baby is sometimes a great hardship, so NFP is an option for married couples or as an alternative for the “hook-up” culture, as bad as that is. The point I’m trying to get at is I saw implied in your argument that we need to avoid babies, and that’s just blatantly false. Maybe I’m just jumping at shadows, and if that is the case I apologize.

          Once again thank you for not trolling, and I apologize if it seems like I trolled. That was not the intent.

        • Anonymous

          J_,

          I appreciate you expressing your disagreement so civilly.

          One of the concerns you express with the analogy given, is that it is overly simple. The analogy given is correct, but you are right in noting that a certain depth or richness is missing. This is the case with most analogies of difficult topics.

          Firstly, Natural Law is a specific philosophical term with a long history. It was expounded in ancient Greece, and adopted and furthered by Christian thought. You may want to read up on it.

          Secondly, for a decidedly detailed and nuanced look at the issue at hand, you should read “Man and Woman He Created Them: a Theology of the Body” by John Paul II. It goes into the unitive and procreative view of sex in much depth. It is, however, a difficult read. JPII was a philosopher and his writing style was not the easiest. Also, it was compiled from notes for a series of public addresses that lasted years. However, if you’re looking for a nuanced Christian perspective that includes both natural law and scripture, that’s where you’ll find it. Many of the works that have emerged from “Man and Woman He Created Them: a Theology of the Body” have, out of necessity, simplified the work, as it’s not exactly light reading or designed for pop theology readers. But you could try them anyway – look out for Christopher West, Janet Smith, Gregory Popcak… Their work may not be as extensive as the book I’ve recommended, but should offer a little more explanation since length is not as much of a consideration as it is in a blog post.

          After reading JPII, you may not agree, but if you don’t at least you’ll have a good understanding of the argument!

    • Hcb

      Telling a bunch of promiscuous kids that God is against birth control is like telling somone who is driving their car over kids in the road that it’s against the law to speed.
      For some people, the finer points of life choices are not the areas of their life that need immediate attention.

      • enness

        I agree. That’s why they need both pertinent reasons and strategies.

        I’m reminded of the classic experiment on delayed gratification that was done with little kids and marshmallows. If they could wait for fifteen minutes, they got to eat two instead of just one. It was repeated after teaching visualization techniques, and more of the kids were able to hold out for the second marshmallow.

    • http://www.scificatholic.com D. G. D. Davidson

      I understand how the Catholic doctrine teaches against use of contraception from the above article. However, the only way that this can be brought into harmony with the claim of the title: ‘Why Contraception is a bad idea’, is if the reader is also catholic.

      The argument is from Natural Law (as well as health issues). It does not require a person to be Catholic, or even religious. The argument that the end of sex is sex (that is, reproduction), and that a person has an ethical obligation to self-restraint, the domination of reason over the appetites, and the reasonable use of appetites for their natural ends, does not rest on any appeal to religious revelation or authority. Some of the most important philosophers to flesh out these ideas were not particularly religious.

  • Lauren

    Mark, I am loving your posts as of late. We miss you down here! Keep up the nice thoughts and pretty pictures.

  • Rapometto

    I am a new reader and I am LOVING your writing. I love that it is so well thought out and informative and also so.freaking.hilarious. Nice work, friend. Keep it up.

  • Mad DawG

    VERY well presented! I linked to it on my RCIA facebook page.

    You da MAN!

    harry k.

  • callitcomely

    Bulimia is a mental illness…not a sin…

    • Helpful

      Bulimia is a psychological disorder….not a mental illness…

  • Abanulo

    #score!!!

  • Karl

    Think of the statement contraception makes: We tell our sexual partners, in the act of sex, I want all of you, totally, completely, except your fertility. You keep that to yourself. Or if we’re guys, keeping our girls on the Pill, we’re effectively saying, “This part of you I must control. I love you, and I’ll sleep with you, but on the condition that you take a hormone preventing your natural, bodily state.”

    This is a shockingly dishonest characterization of the motivation behind contraceptive use. In my experience the decision is most often mutual and motivated by a genuine concern by each partner for the other’s ability to deal with the stresses of pregnancy and child rearing, especially when neither partner is able to properly support that child. I don’t doubt that it is possible to be motivated in the way you describe; there are plenty of crummy people in the world. But to characterize that motivation as essential to the act of birth control is mendacious, insulting, and uncharitable in a way that makes you a bad person.

    • Alexandra

      What it says is that he doesn’t seem acknowledge that maybe a woman wants to use hormonal contraceptives and enjoy sex. That somehow men are the driving force behind sex using contraceptives.

      • Anonymous

        True. But some women want to enjoy food without gaining weight, and can go to a number of harmful practices to do so. That doesn’t make their actions healthy or right.

        And since many women are overly influenced by society’s insistence on a particular kind of figure and the need to be sexually attractive (usually for men) that doesn’t let male-dominated society off the hook either.

        Same for contraception. A woman’s free choice to use contraception doesn’t ipso facto make the use healthy or right, and there’s a question of how “free” her choice really is. But that’s a debate for the culture warriors. I know that 3rd wave feminists question the “freedom” contraception has given women, arguing that it has benefited men considerably and relegated women to a different form of servitude.

      • Caroline

        Amen! The one in my marriage who wants contraception is ME, the woman. My husband is anti. There is much sexism in these Catholic discussions, especially when it comes to NFP. The arguments used for the “good” of NFP almost always make it seem as if the man is some uncontrollable sex animal that the woman always wants to tame and control. For many it’s the other way around. Imagine that! Women who are horny!

    • Steve

      I think you have misread this passage. The first two sentences aren’t meant to say that this is the expressed motive for contraception, but instead to point out that there is an implied message. When you engage in sex, you are giving yourself fully to that other person, and they reciprocate. Contraception excludes only the fertility of the two people involved. By using contraception, you are refusing to give/receive only the fertility. The implied message is, then, that I don’t want your fertility, and I don’t want you to have mine.

      It’s like when a woman gets mad because you say that she “looks good today” (the implied, unintentional message being that she doesn’t usually look good).

      The second part is aimed specifically at guys, and is more of an accusation. However, the sentence is conditional. “If” is an incredibly important word. And note again the “effective” message, not the stated one.

      In short, passage is not claiming that any sort of motivation is essential, but rather that the unintended message is inherent.

      • Wjukes

        The message expresses a selfish motivation. I don’t see what difference it makes that the message is intended or unintended, unless the argument is not that you are necessarily being selfish and more that you risk hurting the other person’s feelings. That would be a pretty ridiculous argument, since as I pointed out most couples using birth control arrive at that decision mutually and amiably.

        The “if” condition applies properly only to the first clause about being a guy. For it to mean unambiguously what you say it means requires a relative clause.

        • Scott

          If you aer having sex and using artificial contraception, your motivation is selfish. I want the pleasure, but i want no chance at having a baby.

          In whatever manner you phrase it, that is what you are saying.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/6TMWGADCHW3VVQNLI3PRTGFSRY Cynthia

            Life is complex, Scott. People often have multiple motives for the things they do. For instance, a woman having sex with a man while she’s on the Pill might be interested in unselfishly giving her partner pleasure. He, too, knowing that she is on the Pill might be interested in unselfishly providing her pleasure.

            Or, a man who uses a condom might be concerned with overpopulation, so he unselfishly uses birth control.

            One can also make the argument that people have sex in order to procreate because they are selfish: they want to see little versions of themselves continue after them.

            There are many ways to look at it.

          • hmmmm

            So if you’re infertile or past menopause you shouldn’t have sex? That cute 80 year old couple married for 60 years has NO chance of having a baby, so if they enjoy intimacy then they’re selfish??

          • http://www.scificatholic.com D. G. D. Davidson

            Can you not see that this doesn’t follow from what Scott wrote?

          • wineinthewater

            You might ask Abraham and Sarah, or Elizabeth and Zecheriah about “no chance.”

            But you have to remember the fundamental difference here. There is sex when you have been rendered infertile and rendering yourself infertile in order to have sex.

          • Mick Chaney

            Yep, pretty much. So?

    • wineinthewater

      We could phrase it a different way:

      I am genuinely concerned enough about your ability to deal with the stresses of pregnancy and child-rearing, especially considering that neither of us is able to properly support that child, to strip sex of one of its essential characters and perhaps flood one of us with hormones classified by the WHO as carcinogenic all while only reducing the risk of those “stresses” and not eliminating them. But I am not concerned enough to actually eliminate that risk since it will require self-sacrifice on my part.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/6TMWGADCHW3VVQNLI3PRTGFSRY Cynthia

        Frankly, of all the arguments above, “to strip sex of one of its essential characters (sic)” is the least persuasive. Human beings have been stripping human activity of its “essential character” since the beginning of recorded history. Humans have two feet: they were never intended to ride horses, drive carts, cars, or fly planes. Never stopped us from leaving the ground.

        “Perhaps flood one of us with hormones…carcinogenic” is a gross misrepresentation of birth control pills. Birth control pills now have very low dosages: they don’t “flood” anything. Also, research into the relationship between cancer risk and hormonal contraception is complex and seemingly contradictory. But, in all cases the risk is very small.

        You fail to mention the risks associated with pregnancy, which are not inconsiderable (high tension, prolapsed uterus, vaginal tears, etc.)

    • Anonymous

      Exactly.

  • http://www.theroad2emmaus.blogspot.com/ Jeremy

    Marc,
    thought you might like this picture.

    • Elm

      brilliant! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1303083663 Peggy Tasler

    how did you get sooo smart!

  • Phil

    Your work here gives me hope for my generation! Such a reasonable foundation you stand upon! A warrior’s work is never done – glad to know an ally is in the foxhole.

  • Guest

    Nature does not dictate morality. When reading this argument I am reminded of all the reasons that people believed that the practices of eugenics could be justified. Natural law states what would occur in natural conditions, and in these conditions contraceptives would in fact not exist. However in nature many other phenomena do exist such as murder, rape and infanticide, all of which may be seen as natural. However being natural does not make these acts morally correct.
    This article confuses what is natural with what is right, a position that I cannot support in any way. It was this view that lead to the the Hitler’s final solution, the eugenics movement and the imprisonment of African Americans as slaves.

    • Scott

      This article’s title includes “#1″ implying that this is but 1 reason the church is against contraception. Rest assured, the church’s moral teaching is informed by, but not solely based on, natural law. To cover ALL of the reasons contraception is bad would risk losing anyone’s attention and would make for a VERY long blog post.

    • LJP

      Natural Law has nothing to do with “laws of nature” or what may or may not be “natural” or does or does not come about “naturally”. Natural Law can be described as “what we can’t not know”, laws that are written on our hearts, such as things you mentioned, murder, rape, etc… Everyone knows these things are wrong, whether we admit it or not.

      It seems you may have misunderstood or misread the article.

  • Middle aged dad

    Great post and great comments to. My own life experience confirms for me what is taught by the Church. Having made many mistakes for long periods of time I find that my love for my wife is ‘flourishing’ in spite of all the harm I heaped on it. Although we did not use contraception we didn’t use self-control either when it would have been required. Suffice to say we did not complete the marital act. I also was wont to give in to my desire for pornography. Both of these actions (again from my own experience) served to objectify my wife and lead me to a not very nice place. I can’t remember which happened first but I admitted to my wife my weakness and asked for help and we also began to practice NFP. Wow…. all I can say that when it comes to loving, none have it more right than the Church. It was like being a teenager all over again. In a weird way (and I mean good weird, not bad weird) I almost prefer the time of abstinence. Our desire for each other goes through the roof and I am certainly much more attentive to my wife as a result. We often speak about how beautiful the model that the Church holds up is. There is of course regret for the time that we chose not to properly inform or consciousness but what joy there is to know that God is only too happy to bestow on us his gifts from wherever we left off.

    To any married couples out there with regards to NFP why not give it a try………. What’s the worst that can happen!

    • Caroline

      What’s the worst that can happen? Mind-numbing despair and depression because of another child you can’t handle.

  • Anne

    Love this! Well-written, well-documented, well done.

  • MacAurelius

    As always, a very interesting and well-written read. What has prompted me to actually reply rather than do my usual smug and entertaing grinning is that I wish to question some of the biological assumptions that you have made.

    Firstly, the purpose of sex isn’t procreation as such, but rather the production of genetically diverse offspring. Why the difference? Because incest is bad, and genetically homoegenous populations are probably at risk from various kinds of diseases. Now, if we accept the postulate that genetic diversity is good, then procreation and unity run counter to each other. The best way to increase genetic diversity is liberal spreading of wild oats. We then have two purposes leading us in different directions – unity towards monogamy and diversity away from it.

    Secondly, sexual behaviour in non-human animals is … shocking and odd to say the least. Homosexuality, polygamy, and so on are so common as to make you blush! Are the behaviours of species such as bonobos (a matriarchal society in which the majority of sexual relationship is non-reproductive) contrary to natural law?

    Thirdly, and this is a broader question, at what point did we evolve into being the subjects of natural law? Were the various proto- and pre-humans subject to these rules?

    • LJP

      To your first point: You had me thinking on this one, good point. But, there is a purpose to unity, a purpose greater than maximum genetic diversity; and this is…education and protection of the young. Human beings develop and learn at a glacial pace compared to the rest of the animal kingdom…probably ‘cuz we be so dad-gum smart! A monogamous relationship between man and woman provides the stability and complementariness (yes, it’s a word, I just looked it up) that a human child needs for proper development.

      To your second point: I don’t know anything about bonobos, but I do know that my dog used to eat her own poo…did that serve any purpose? I perfer not to think about it. My point being, natural law is only in reference to humanity (as I would imagine are most ethical philosophy…what use are ethics to bonobos?)

      To your third point: At what point did humans become persons? I have no idea. But here we are.

  • Bill

    Now that was funny!…………… True but funny.

  • Anonymous

    I have a question. First off let me say great article and it helps me clarify a lot of things in my mind. But let me present a situation: let’s say we have a newly married couple where both people are in the early stages of their careers or for some such other reason besides financial or practical find that they don’t yet want to have children. Wouldn’t it be kind of ridiculous to tell them they can’t have sex if they’re planning to use a contraceptive? While I agree with the arguments against the use of a pill, I feel family planning isn’t neccessarily the answer either as when the woman is most fertile, she’s also most down to boogie, so wouldn’t the use of a condom or other physical contraceptive allow the couple to have sex and deepen their relationship? I guess what I’m trying to say is that while openness to life between the couple is important, so is a sense of responsibility towards the children they’ll have together to have them born in the best environment possible, and should they feel they can’t provide that yet, it doesn’t seem right to deny them sex…

    • Ut Christus Regnet

      That’s a valid point, but Marc covered that in his article. “Think of the statement contraception makes: We tell our sexual partners, in the act of sex, I want all of you, totally, completely, except your fertility. You keep that to yourself. Or if we’re guys, keeping our girls on the Pill, we’re effectively saying, ‘This part of you I must control. I love you, and I’ll sleep with you, but on the condition that you take a hormone preventing your natural, bodily state.’ ” The sexual act is supposed to be a complete gift of oneself to another. If a married couple is reserving their fertility, they’re not really giving of themselves entirely.

      • Anonymous

        I really don’t get this. I’ve been married 25 years and used the Pill for most of it. We have two lovely children and I never ONCE thought that use of contraceptives meant my husband rejected my fertility. We didn’t have stable jobs for the first few years we were married and we were too responsible to risk having kids we couldn’t take care of because we didn’t have any money. The risk of a pregnancy when one of us was unemployed was a much bigger buzzkill than some hypothetical posh about “rejecting my fertility.” I was rejecting my fertility when having a child would have been completely irresponsible.

        • Erik

          Karen, you aren’t dealing with rational people here. They will tell you that you would have been closer to your husband if you hadn’t taken the pill. That your relationship was somehow incomplete. The whole thing is Church marketing to get more babies. Don’t worry about it, you are all good.

          • Anonymous

            Thanks, Erik. Women have advanced far in our society only because we’re not constantly pregnant. Opposing birth control is opposing women, and advocating for us to remain cowardly, dimwitted, weaklings.

    • Caroline

      The traditional Catholics would respond to this scenario by saying then you shouldn’t have gotten married in the first place, even if your were burning with passion. They would say that marriage implicitly and automatically entails being open to and responsible for a child immediately upon “I do.” Don’t believe me? Check out some of the traditional Catholic forums. And they will back it all up with saints’ writings, etc.

  • Guest

    Great article. I am one who had to come to this perspective slowly with age and consequences. but the longer I live (and I’ mnot THAT old!) the more I appreciate The Church’s reasons and philosophy.

    Thank you for your writing.

  • Renee.S

    Such an awesome article! Thank you!

  • Magnificat729

    Great post. May Ritalin never, EVER cross the threshold of your palate. I thank God for the way your ADHD is playing out. How many geniuses must we have dispensed with through Ritalin?

    • Caroline

      ADD folks tend to flourish UNDER the influence of ritalin, etc., not the other way around. Those who aren’t ADD wouldn’t get it.

  • Swift

    if contraceptive pill usage has a huge risk of breast cancer, I think it makes no logical sense to say it “PREVENTS” ovarian cancer by 1%, when i am quite sure living out ones natural simple and NORMAL hormonal cycle reduces ovarian cancer 200 fold. The reality is…..screw/distort your natural hormonal reproductive normalcy and make a bed for a nasty disease, or leave that alone to its natural design and take “care” of yourself, and expect good health.

  • Amelia B.

    Nice article. Instead of the bullemia example (which would seem to attack people already suffering from a serious illness), why not just go with an isolated example:

    Eg. “If an act does not achieve its natural end, that act is detrimental to the organism. If the act of eating does not achieve its natural end of filling, the organism will starve.” {Think about Thanksgiving dinner. If I were to eat Thanksgiving dinner with the intention to then vomit it all back up afterwards, there would be something seriously wrong with my relationship to food. I wanted all the pleasure of food, but not the natural effect (telos or end) to which food is aimed- nourishment. (This is not meant to include those suffering from eating disorders, who have serious psychological suffering that they have to deal with, and they deserve our love and support. For the rest of us, however, planning to purge a huge dinner so that we could over-indulge would be pure gluttony, and a deeply misdirected understanding of feasting and table fellowship.}

    Feel free to quote it. :)

  • Ryan McEwan

    I don’t know. The whole article argues for the “natural end” of organisms, but all living things die. Rose bushes can only flourish for so long. In fact, by this logical, you should be VERY against your husband hunting, because getting shot is not a natural end. By the same argument, plans shouldn’t be eaten, or for that matter harvested. The fact is, we are determining which organisms we want to control and which we don’t. The author also states that “The natural end of sex is both unity (pleasure) and procreation (babies) and these things are inseparably intertwined.” That means, by the author’s own admission, that the only reason couples have sex is for the pleasure of making babies. Can you say that you only lay with your husband when you are trying to procreate? Because if you are doing anything but trying to make a baby, you are violating natural law. Later, the author discusses contraceptives and says “When acts do not achieve their natural end, the acting organism suffers.” However, when procreation is not achieved, by random chance, this does not cause the organism to suffer. There is nothing wrong when sex does not lead to procreation and the only result is pleasure. In addition, modern medicine allows us to take many forms of aid to supplement child birth. Fertility aids, pain killers, even modern antiseptics used to prevent infection are all interfering with the natural end of the process of birth. To be against one, you must be against all. You cannot pick and choose which forms of interference you deem “acceptable” and which you do not.

    • Anonymous

      The author is trying to say that the pleasure and pro-creation are complimentary and not in opposition. They cannot be divorced from each other. This is common sense that sex involves both.

      The other examples you provide, are not intentionally sterile.

      There’s a difference between killing grandma and letting her die naturally.

      The author does quote, “The Church does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there from—provided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever.”

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/6TMWGADCHW3VVQNLI3PRTGFSRY Cynthia

        “They (pleasure and procreation) cannot be divorced from each other. This is common sense that sex involves both.”

        Common sense? I don’t think so. Pleasure and sex are frequently divorced from one another. Most people’s first experience of sex is sex with themselves–good old masturbation. Pleasure yes, procreation no.
        A woman or girl’s first intercourse is often painful. Procreation yes, pleasure no. Women don’t have to have pleasure at all for the sex act to occur. Procreation yes, pleasure no. Procreation is not possible at all once menapause hits. Pleasure yes, procreation no.

        The common sense is that sex for pleasure and and procreation are often divorced.

    • Miguelgar83

      I don’t think you’re understanding what is meant by “natural end.” What he is referring to here is what Aristotle called the “telos” or “final cause” or “purpose.” Read the Nichomachean Ethics and perhaps the Physics to understand it further. As Aristotle points out in the Ethics, ultimately the final end or “natural end” of a human being is happiness, which he defines basically as the flourishing of all our human potential (that is what he means by “natural end”). So for Aristotle, when you talk about an act being good or bad, you are talking about whether it leads to the attainment of your final end or not. As Marc makes clear here, contraception is bad precisely because it frustrates an act that would lead to human flourishing (which is why he makes the analogy to the rosebush). If you doubt all the terrible effects of individuals and society, I really recommend that you listen to a talk called “Contraception: Why Not?” by Dr. Janet Smith. It is truly eye-opening, and I think if you listen to it, there is a high likelihood that by the end of it you will agree. As for the matter of hunting and eating an animal, to the extent that it is being done for providing food for yourself it is quite consistent with human flourishing, and is therefore good. Of course, if it is done rather out of some vicious attitude such as cruelty or contempt for nature, the act would be in opposition to the virtues and therefore opposed to human flourishing, and therefore bad. For that reason, intentions are part of what we consider when judging moral acts. The question always comes back to this: is a certain human act consistent with human flourishing? If so, good. If not, bad. If that still isn’t clear to you, I refer you to Book 1 of the Nichomachean Ethics, were you can get a fuller explanation from Aristotle himself. If nothing else, I think you will find it interesting.

      • Beatrice

        Msgr. Robert Sokolowski in his “What is Natural Law? Human Purposes and Natural Ends” written for the Thomist Journal in 2004 provides further incite into classical philosophy’s view of ends. Sokolowski really helpful in fully understanding ends, because Aristotle can sometimes be tricky.
        Sokolowski is also just a really beautiful writer which I must say is always a bonus.

      • Erik

        I think there is something to be said about the “natural end” of the planets resources. If we, as a species, embrace the flawed deductive logic above, we would soon cause an exponential population growth that is unsustainable. There are already over 7 billion people on this planet: within a century the logic above would lead to staggering numbers of people, conservatively 20-3o billion. At what point does the natural law become famine, ruin, pestilence, and war. Contraceptives are a means of birth control. They are used so that people can choose when and where they wish to have children while still maintaining intimacy. To say those two cannot be separated is to fly in the face of millions of people that use them in happy, healthy, relationships. Unfortunately, the toolbox I have at my disposal is reason and logic, and that has no meaning to the religious people that must reach a conclusion by things like “faith” and “belief”. Which is why I stop now…

        • Molly

          If you did any research or reading before you commented based on stereotypes and what you had heard/learned from others you would realize that the entire concept of “Natural Law” is based on reason and logic. The point of Natural Law is that you can derive it from the natural world around you. Aristotle wasn’t Christian.

          • Jim

            Catholics oppose contraception because it either it is either misuse of the sexual organs, interferes with the sex act, or the operation of the human reproductive system. This is based on a certain spiritual understanding the purpose of the sex organs, of the nature of the sex act and the nature of the human body. That is fine for Catholics, but not everyone shares this belief.

            To consider it a part of the Natural Law is a stretch at best and outright arrogance at worse.

          • Marc

            prove it.

          • Erik

            Well said, Jim, though I think the real moral story from the Church is “have more kids because we need more Catholics”.

          • http://www.facebook.com/jon.visser Jon Visser

            If you can prove that the Church wants christians to “have more kids because we need more Catholics” in any Church documents, then please show them. Otherwise, this conspiracy theory is getting very tiring and uninformative.

            The Church wants christians to live a full life the way God intended. You may not accept that premise, but for christians to be living in accord with Church teaching – we informatively base our conscience on it so we do not behave hypocritically. No one likes hypocrites.

        • wineinthewater

          Two things here:

          First, this is about contraception, not birth control. Catholicism permits birth control and actually teaches that parents are to be responsible in procreation. Catholicism only forbids contraception.

          Second, the issue of resources is already tempered by Catholic teaching. Catholic teaching holds that all of creation exists for the good of all humanity. One person has no right to deprive another of the fruits of creation that they need to live and flourish. This applies equally to your neighbor, the person across the world and the generations to come.

          • Erik

            Contraception is just better birth control. I am not making a moral statement, it is just a fact. The Church may say that is wrong, and you may believe that, but don’t go applying questionable logic to support this claim. It is thinly veiled highly deductive pseudo logic on the order of, “It is wrong because we said it is.”

            One person has no right to deprive another of the fruits of creation? What happens when these run out because the scourge of humanity picks them clean? What then? Do you think that even the faithful will idly stand by until they die? If history is a guide, the answer is no. They will find someone who does have what they want and take it. They may even make themselves feel good about by disguising it as a “Holy War” or “Crusade”. If Catholic teaching really does say that, then population growth is an ethical imperative. And, yes, I used deductive logic there, good of you to notice.

          • wineinthewater

            “Contraception is just better birth control. I am not making a moral statement, it is just a fact.”

            Well, I don’t know about a moral statement, but you aren’t making a factual statement either. When used correctly, the Sympto-Thermal Method of NFP has a .4% failure rate (interestingly, when combined with condoms during the fertile period, the failure rate goes *up* to .6%). That’s better than the Cervical cap (18%), Diaphragm (6%), Male condom (3%), Spermicides (6%) and Sponge (15%) and comparable to the IUD (.6%) and tubal ligation (.3%). Of course, the pill has one of the lowest rates (.1%), but you have to take a WHO-classified carcinogen to get those extra .4%. And the STM isn’t even the most effective NFP approach out there.

            “What happens when these run out because the scourge of humanity picks them clean? ”

            I don’t know. “Experts” have been predicting that we would hit that point “soon” for over two centuries and yet we haven’t. Malthus was just as wrong as Ehrlich. The reality is that resource problems in this world are due far more to resource consumption iniquity than true resource scarcity. I think the response “fewer selfish gluttonous people so there is more for all” (the Catholic response) is better than “fewer people overall so the selfish, gluttonous people don’t have to change” (the contraceptive response).

          • Caroline

            Your NFP data can’t be scientifically proved. Note, too, that you NFP data is OLD and overused.

          • Barefoot Mommy

            Have you heard of the OvaCue?

          • wineinthewater

            If the NFP data can’t be scientifically proven, then no effectiveness rates can be scientifically proven since that study uses the same basic sampling methodology.

            And so what if it is old? It is from 1999, the standard contraceptive numbers touted by contraception proponents are from 2000. So if the NFP numbers are “invalidated” due to age, then so are the contraception numbers.

          • Elm

            Contraception is just ‘better birth control’? That’s like saying starvation makes for a better diet plan than a balanced diet (as you lose more weight that way).

            This is not just about spacing or limiting children. It’s about relationships, and especially marital realtionships, and the damage done when the sex act which is part of such a relationship is distorted.

            We Catholics view sex as positive and sacred, and an imitation of God’s own love with is both love-giving and creative in it’s very nature.

            it’s about distortion the act, and about damaging relationships, as well as about having kids- which is why again NFP can be okay but contracepting is not. Even if contracepting was a zillion times ‘more effective’ towards your goal of not having kids than NFP is– it would still be wrong and damaging.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/6TMWGADCHW3VVQNLI3PRTGFSRY Cynthia

            Contraception is “about damaging relationships.” Prove it. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. It’s not enough to say it over and over.

            I claim that effective contraceptives help relationships:

            ~When couples only have children when they have the resources to care for them, it reduces stress within the relationship.

            ~Effective contraceptives reduce the number of abortions in a society.

          • http://www.scificatholic.com D. G. D. Davidson

            Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

            It’s amazing how often people repeat this nonsense. Claims you happen to consider extraordinary require no more evidence than anything else.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/6TMWGADCHW3VVQNLI3PRTGFSRY Cynthia

            Fine. Then please provide not-so-extraordinary evidence that contraception damages relationships.

          • Guest

            Does the correlation between divorce and contraception not suffice…?

          • arlie

            Wrong

          • Smrdjenovic

            dude, i am pretty sure most people here including the original blog gave reasons for why the they believe the church and why the church teaches them… just sayin, it doesnt sound to me like anyone has said “its wrong because we said so”

        • Miguelgar83

          Dude, no one is saying the Church requires you to have an unlimited number of children. It teaches you should have as many children as is responsible given your particular life situation. But, as with *everything* else, there are means that are legitimate to achieve a certain family size, and means that are not. Artificial contraception distorts and frustrates the sexual act, robs it of its full meaning, and keeps the act from leading to human flourishing. NFP achieves the same end without ever frustrating the act. Think of a baseball team that loses a game, except in one case (NFP) it is because it is playing against a superior rival, while in the other case (contraception) it is throwing the game. We consider the latter disgraceful, but not the former. As someone who practices NFP, by the way, and who used to use contraception, I can attest from personal experience that I find NFP profoundly *liberating*.

          That aside, you really ought to know better than accuse Aristotle, the FOUNDER of formal logic, of poor logic. Seriously.

          • Erik

            I contend that although the Church does not “require” you to have an unlimited number of children, it certainly wants that very thing. I contend that the Church is looking at its own self-interests: growing the numbers of faithful in the most direct way possible, breeding and indoctrination. I find that using NFP and contraception are morally equivalent. By using either, you are saying that you want control of your life and want to choose when you have offspring. I think NFP leads to more pregnancies, and the scientific data supports that thesis. I know, you will come back with all sorts of anecdotal evidence how you use it, it works for you, but overall the numbers are not in your favor. If you take a step back and think about a simple thing like using a condom, all you are doing is placing a barrier to make the percentages decrease for an unwanted pregnancy. Considering your Church does not believe in abortions, I would say that would be an ideal scenario. Countries that have made contraception illegal or difficult to procure have seen illegal abortions at a rate higher than the US.

            The logic is flawed from the very beginning. Natural end is always good? The natural end for bacteria is to spread in its host and to propagate to another before killing said host. Yet, we have antibiotics which kill them. Natural end for an animal in the wild is to be mauled painfully and eaten by a predator, and yet we find that distasteful for humans. We override a huge number of “natural laws” with ethics, both from religion and other sources. The logic is kindergarten level: it may as well have said, “The church does not believe in contraception, therefore it is wrong.”

          • wineinthewater

            I’d disagree. The Church wants you to welcome as many children as God gives you and to play a prudential role in figuring out how many that is.

            If the Church was really only concerned about maximizing baby output, her teachings would be quite different. For one, she wouldn’t extol the virtues of celibacy. And she certainly wouldn’t require celibacy in any situations. But Catholic teaching generally requires celibacy of priests and religious and even has a class of members who take on celibacy out in the secular world. If maximizing babies were Catholicism’s intent, NFP wouldn’t be allowed at all since it provides a way to regulate conception.

            As to the scientific data, it all depends on how you look at the data. For one, NFP is not a single thing, it is a collection of related approaches to the regulation of conception. So any talk of the effectiveness of NFP would be an aggregate of all the approaches, but the different approaches have different effectiveness rates. There is also a key phrase in effectiveness rates: “when used correctly.” When used correctly, NFP compares favorably and even beats some forms of contraception. But it is true that it is more difficult to use NFP correctly than just about every form of contraception. So if you look at the rates of effectiveness under typical use, all forms of birth control suffer, but NFP tends to suffer more.

            One of the things going on here is that when you see effectiveness rates comparisons, they usually compare contraceptives to the Rhythm Method, not to more reliable NFP approaches. And there is this flawed premise that contraceptives are so easy to use that they are pretty much always used correctly. But this is not the case. Even according to Guttmacher, 13-14% of abortions follow the perfect usage of condoms and the pill.

            Finally that more contraception leads to less abortions is not so clear. Also according to Guttmacher, 54% of abortions in the US come from the users of contraceptives (a combination of both user and method failure). In most countries, including the US, contraception rates and abortion rates rise together. It is only once countries reach a kind of “saturation point” of contraceptives use that the abortion rates begin to fall off. But in those countries, almost all abortions are therefore the result of contraceptive failure.

          • Caroline

            Again, NFP is a basically unheard of concept until late in the second half of the 20th century. If we are to look to sacred tradition for guidance in spacing children, what guidance would that be?

          • wineinthewater

            What does it look like? Don’t get married until you are ready to have children. Don’t have sex until you get married.

            Once a person was married, biology loomed large. Before the 20th c., women generally breastfed. Breastfeeding delays the return of fertility. (The modern Western high-fat diet has frustrated this of course.) So there was a natural spacing of 2-3 years between children.

          • Elm

            “I find that using NFP and contraception are morally equivalent.”

            No, because contraception distorts the act of sex itself, and NFP does not.

          • ADude

            “I contend that the Church is looking at its own self-interests: growing the numbers of faithful in the most direct way possible, breeding and indoctrination.”

            You clearly see the Catholic Church as some mastermind plot to take over the Earth…

          • Caroline

            Yeah, but where was NFP until maybe the 1970′s? There’s 2000+ years before that.

          • Barefoot Mommy

            People have been aware of fertility cycles for aeons. Puritanism put people at odds with the natural affinity of knowing our bodies. During our own time, women are prohibited by a medical establishment which insists she can’t possibly know herself as well as a doctor :-/ When an nfp teachign couple explained cervical position in re. to fertility to a young woman in Africa, she replied, that her grandmother shared that with her long ago!
            At any rate, breastfeeding has prevented more pregnancies than all forms of artificial birth-control combined. It wasn’t until medical science interfered with natural parenting that women started having babies each and every year. Royal and wealthy families who wanted children every year hired wet nurses.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/6TMWGADCHW3VVQNLI3PRTGFSRY Cynthia

            “Artificial contraception distorts and frustrates the sexual act, robs it of its full meaning, and keeps the act from leading to human flourishing.”

            Evil contraception, robbing sex of its full meaning. Does that full meaning include approximatley 850 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 1900 in the U.S.? Let’s not forget that not so long ago, the “natural end” of the sex act was pretty dangerous for women. “…contraception…keeps the act from leading to human flourishing.” On the contrary, contraception helps the sex act actually lead to human flourishing: women can chose to have children when they have the resources and mates and support to do so; it also permits women who want a career only to avoid having children. Don’t forget that “human flourishing” applies to the aspirations of women as well.

          • http://www.scificatholic.com D. G. D. Davidson

            . . . women can chose to have children when they have the resources and mates and support to do so . . .

            Funny how an argument in favor of contraception can slide so easily into a defense of fornication.

            Don’t forget that ‘human flourishing’ applies to the aspirations of women as well.

            You are playing a word game. “Flourishing” does not mean “whatever I happen to want.”

          • CC

            I don’t understand why the natural end of a woman is to have children, however. Why does a woman without children necessarily have to be going against her “natural end”? Why CAN’T she flourish doing something else? Why DOES she have to have children if she doesn’t want to? You make it sound like doing what you want to do in your life is a crime.

          • http://www.scificatholic.com D. G. D. Davidson

            You are putting words in my mouth.

            You make it sound like doing what you want to do in your life is a crime.

            If what you want to do in life is criminal, then yes. If I want to spend my life raping and murdering, then I want to spend my life committing crimes. Similarly, if I want to spend my life unethically, then what I want to do with my life is unethical. I don’t think I understand the point you’re trying to make.

            Why does a woman without children necessarily have to be going against her “natural end”?

            Have you heard anyone here, even once, criticize a woman simply for not having children? Again, I don’t grasp the point you think you’re making.

            As you learned in biology class, the telos, or final cause, of the generative organs is generation, and the telos, or final cause, of the sexual appetite is copulation, which is reproduction.

          • Kate

            I realize this comment is a month old, but to understand the statistic of 850 deaths per 100,000 live births, you’d do better to look at the history of obstetrics than contraceptives. What doctors were doing in 1900 was the problem, not the labor itself.

          • guest

            “On the contrary, contraception helps the sex act actually lead to human flourishing: women can chose to have children when they have the resources and mates and support to do so; it also permits women who want a career only to avoid having children. ”

            Do you realize that this form of contraception exists in the realm called abstinence?

            Women get to choose when they have children because women choose when to have sex. I firmly believe (as a guy) that women are fully capable of making the decision themselves on when to have sex.

            It is also worth mentioning that according to Planned Parenthood’s own literature, obtained from the Guttmacher Institute, a women will get AT LEAST ONE pregnancy within the first 10 years of starting regular use of contraception 70% of the time. That is a lot of un-”planned” pregnancies for women who are not ready or willing that you are encouraging with your mindset even. You appear to desire advocating for women to have control over their reproductive systems but ironically you advocate for the very mindset that more often than not leads to unplanned pregnancy.

        • ADude

          Aristotle was a religious man. Socrates was a religious man. Different religions, perhaps, but still, “religious people.” Both are still used for “logic” and “reason.” You obviously didn’t use logic and reason there. You used your belief that religious people can’t use logic or reason.

        • http://www.scificatholic.com D. G. D. Davidson

          First you call deductive logic flawed, and then you say “reason and logic” are your “toolbox.” You need to make up your mind.

          If an argument based in deductive logic is flawed–by which I assume you mean invalid–then you should be able to indicate the formal fallacy it commits.

          Otherwise, you may criticize it by arguing that one of its premises is false to facts.

          You may not, however, simply take issue with the conclusion, which is what you are doing here.

          Whenever a topic like this is discussed, it fascinates me that it is always the people who are supposedly irrational religious nutjobs who actually show evidence that they have some training in logic, whereas their opponents, however much they toss the word “logic” around, are capable of little besides word games, ad hominem, and appeals to emotion.

    • Elvin_bethea

      The author also states that “The natural end of sex is both unity (pleasure) and procreation (babies) and these things are inseparably intertwined.” That means, by the author’s own admission, that the only reason couples have sex is for the pleasure of making babies. Can you say that you only lay with your husband when you are trying to procreate? Because if you are doing anything but trying to make a baby, you are violating natural law.

      You, sir, should be ashamed of your blatant misinterpretation of what Marc has said. He is not saying that, “if you are doing anything but trying to make a baby, you are violating natural law”. Far from it. He is simply stating that the two natural ends of sex are procreation and pleasure, not that the you are “violating natural law” when you do it for pleasure, for pleasure is, in fact, one of the natural ends.

    • Guest

      Genesis 1:28. What do you expect us to eat.. air?
      As for your second statement, the author is saying that they are intertwined. Everytime you have sex, you are putting sperm into a woman’s body. (It may not result in a baby every time, but it is still the act of reproducing.
      And everytime you have sex, you are striving for pleasure. (Whether you achieve it or not is between you and your parner.)

      And who says we aren’t against them all?

    • Marina

      What a wonderfully written and refreshingly objective expression of opposition. I happen to agree with your statements, not only is the basis of contention flawed, but the author fails to prove it with concrete support I did appreciate how he illustrated the holes in planned parenthood’s statistic rather than just bashing them, however I would look forward to links to external sources in the future. .
      Thanks, M

  • Robyn

    Since I’ve already seen half a dozen people get this wrong: if you have never heard of the concept of Natural Law before you read this article, you might want to look it up before you try to make snarky comments about it because it has absolutely nothing to do with the behavior of animals. And chances are, since I go to one of the only non-Catholic institutions that teaches Natural Law theory, you probably don’t know what it is. Just sayin.

    • Origami_Isopod

      No need to look up some bullshit pulled out of a theologian’s ass. I prefer to judge by real-world effects, kthx.

  • Alexa

    Yessssssss :) I wish people would just realize and accept this… it’s common sense

  • christina

    Just a quick Thanks to you Marc. Keep up the good work!!!!!!

  • Ariel

    Your blog never ceases to amaze me. I can’t believe how intelligent you are at 18! Good work and keep the faith alive!! I have a healthy addiction to your blog and share it on FB all the time. As a univeristy student at a Catholic school too, I appreciate your honesty and sincerity to catholic teachings. Thank you for all of your wit, intelligence and truth. <3

    • Ariel

      Also, Calvin & Hobbes picture FTW!!

  • Rebecca

    I really enjoyed your article; bookmarking it for future reference. I have one little linguistic quibble though…when you speak of the therapeutic use of “contraceptives”…I do not think you should there refer to them as “contraceptives”. A sharp distinction needs to be made between hormones used for therapeutic purposes vs. hormones used for contraceptive purposes. It may be that hormones used for therapeutic purposes will have an unintended contraceptive side-effect but to call it in that case “using contraceptives” is to imply that the primary purpose of the user is their contraceptive nature. The reason I’m taking the time to voice this quibble about words is that I have run into Catholics who have a hard time understanding that hormones with contraceptive side-effects can sometimes be used lawfully for therapeutic purposes, and I believe part of the reason is that they are thinking, “these are contraceptives, so if people use contraceptives for what they deem is a good purpose, then they are justifying the means by the end”. They think you are using something inherently bad (contra-ceptive) to achieve something you think is good. That is why I believe it is important to use the more neutral language of “hormones” especially when speaking of the legitimate use of these hormones. Thanks for your time, and for the article.

  • Emilyrose7309

    Love the analogies! I totally agree with you!

  • Anonymous

    What evidence do you have that women are worse off now than we were before contraception? You have presented a long hypothetical but not one single example from the real world. I don’t doubt that couples that don’t use contraception have a lower divorce rate, because those couples all belong to religions that prohibit divorce and the wives don’t have jobs or incomes. “Stay married to the abusive bum or starve” isn’t much of a choice. Please show me some actual evidence that proves that, solely because of contraception, men have a lower opinion of women’s competence and skill.

    • DudeBro

      I think you’re making a bit of a leap here…
      Couples who don’t use contraception typically do belong to religions that teach the use of contraception as wrong and that also prohibit divorce. Though, (and I’m sure I may have my Catholic knowledge lacking here) the Catholic church does do marriage annulments which is similar in some ways. The bigger issue though, I think is your comment about wives who “don’t have jobs or incomes.” I don’t believe that a wife staying home is something shameful for women to do. In fact, I think it is one of women’s most honorable callings, one that our society refuses to recognize as important. Where would you be today if your mother hadn’t taken the time to care for you when you were growing up? I can tell you that my mother made the decision to put her career on hold in order to raise my siblings and I and we are all truly blessed for it. Contrast that with friends that I have known whose parents decided to work and put their careers ahead of their kids, and they generally seem to be a bit more unsettled and constantly trying to “fix” their lives.
      Additionally, framing it from the perspective of “stay with an abusive bum or starve” is the same tired example that feminists have been using for nearly 100 years. Show me how the vast majority of womne who are stay-at-home moms are abused by husbands that are “bums”. I don’t buy it.
      Abuse happens, and it’s terrible when it does, but it’s also important to recognize that it happens everywhere, not just in families with stay at home moms.

    • Mike

      The problem with modern feminism is that it tries to get women to behave as well as bad men. (He can have sex with no responsibility, so why can’t I?) That’s unfortunate, as it truly disregards the beauty of what it means to be a woman.

      I think you’re gonna have a difficult time finding a study that asked the question you asked. But men do have a lower opinion of women thanks to contraception. The birth control pill gave rise to the “sexual revolution.” The idea that “I don’t want to give all of myself to you as a gift (love), I just want to use you for a little bit of pleasure and then move on with no responsibility (lust).” We have abortion following only 13 years later, killing innocent children and leaving mothers and fathers wounded. In the holocaust, over 6 million Jews were killed. This is unthinkable. But in the US alone, over 53 million babies have been lost to abortion since 1973. Abortion is only demanded because it is backup birth control. Pornography is now the world’s largest industry, and is destroying families. Women are being sexually abused everyday by pornography (directly and indirectly), while men feast on this stuff. Contraception, and the mentality that goes along with it, is destroying western civilization.

    • Kate

      Two months late, but your comment made me angry enough to respond.
      1 – I am a woman in a religious, NFP-using relationship. I work full time, have a college degree, and am quite happy in my marriage. NFP use forces difficult conversations, and our faith teaches us that the commitment is more important than our immediate happiness. My husband and I will never divorce because we don’t consider it an option. Not because I couldn’t easily support myself.
      2 – My mother is a woman in a religious, NFP-using relationship. She is a registered Nurse who has a fulfilling career AND a fulfilling marriage. She has a BS in nursing and a myriad of post-grad credits and certifications. She started a program at the hospital she works at. She and my father have eight living children, and while they are not always happy with each other (that’s part of marriage) they will never divorce because they don’t consider it an option. They committed to forever, not “until I get bored.”

      Your comment betrays that you are as ignorant & close-minded as you accuse Christians to be. So there’s that.

  • amber lauer

    The “natural end” of parenthood is to raise children to be healthy and happy. The ideal situation for this is one where both parents are both emotionally and financially capable of providing that natural end. Many people use contraception as a strategic method to delay conception until such a situation is possible. This is a common behavior in the animal kingdom, as many animals are known to be able to strategically delay reproduction.

    • wineinthewater

      Fine. But contraception is not the only reliable way to regulate birth. Therefore, your argument is an argument for birth control, which Catholic teaching does not absolutely forbid, not just contraception.

      And that is kind of the point. Every true good that can be obtained from contraception can be gained without contraception. Meanwhile, what goods that might be obtained through the use of contraception are inextricably linked to the ills of contraception.

    • LJP

      Whoa…are you telling me that animals have been spacing births, “strategically delay[ing] reproduction” as you put it, without the aid of synthetic hormones, metallic uterine implants, sheaths of latex, spermicidal foam/jelly, diaphragms, cups, etc.. all this time? Sounds like they’ve evolved some sort of natural way to plan a family… INGENIOUS!!

      • Tally Marx

        As someone who is find of sarcasm, I very much like your reply, LJP.

  • Guest

    The fact that contraception violates natural law does not make it wrong or immoral. In fact many things that follow natural law and are seen regularly in nature are immoral, and because of this natural law should never be used to support any moral decision.

    In the past people have used natural law to support the eugenics movement, including Hitler’s final solution. In nature we also see many examples of violent male dominance over women, rape and infanticide all of which I view as immoral, and as events that should be prevented in human communities.

    The argument that contraception violates natural law and is therefore immoral is no different than saying that eugenics follows natural law so it must be moral. The concept of natural law should not be used to make moral decision, unless you are willing to understand all behaviour in terms of natural law which I do not believe you would be willing to do.

    • Tally Marx

      The concept of natural law isn’t derived from what we see in animals/plants/nature. It is a philosophical idea that you would do well to look up.

  • Feeneyja

    AMEN Brother! I am a married Catholic woman and bought the line of BS that you should be on birth control for child spacing, your health, etc. Everything you descibe it true. We shunned it all after discovering for ourselves the damage it did to my health, and the way our relationship suffered. I am now finally a liberated woman. Yes, your heard me. A liberated woman who shunns the use of birth control (how can that be?) Liberated from the controlling pharma companies and population control idiots who know nothing about biology and relationships. And I can tell you the physical barriers…yeah, they totally take away from the unity and enjoyment of the gift a physical relationship with your spouse.

    Thank you for posting.

    • Feeneyja

      I should have said contraception, not birth control. We use NFP happily now.

    • Anonymous

      Well, plenty of “liberal” white guys are out there waiting to tell you that you are being oppressed, FYI, my sister!
      :) From one liberated woman to another.

  • Erica Page

    Oh my. I was planning to try to tackle the issue of why birth control is harmful in a blog post of my own, but I think I’ll just link up to you. Cool?

    This was extremely well written, informative, and funny! You are talented!

  • Rebecca Devendra

    I’d add this to your point about the pill reducing ovarian and endometrial cancers: it only does so because it reduces ovulation. If a woman goes through a full term pregnancy and breastfeeds, she gets the same benefits without the pill, and without the increased risk of breast cancer the pill encourages. I’ve also head that if a woman carries a pregnancy to term before the age of 25, her risk of breast cancer drops drastically.

  • guest

    I think by taking this philosophical approach you completely skip over the reality of the situation- humans want to have sex and often lack the self control to do so in a manner that wouldn’t put them at risk of an unwanted pregnancy. You don’t mention the economic benefits of having less children, not to mention the many health benefits of having fewer children at more widely spaced intervals. I suppose those arguments don’t matter in the idea of a “natural end,” but it’s foolish (which is similarly to how I feel about many Catholic stances) to disregard the context of 21st century culture. Perhaps when you look at the people around you, in similar economic and social conditions, you feel like they could easily make the choice to abstain from sex until they are able to deal with the “natural” outcomes of their actions. However, the reality of the situation is that many women don’t have the luxury of an equal partnership in their marriage to enforce NFP practices. Within many cultures in developing countries, women often have little choice as to when they have sex. By having sex without contraceptives they put themselves at great risk of maternal mortality as well as put their future children at risk of countless morbidities. There are countless articles that show the negative health effects associated with an increased number of children in a family.

    One woman I spoke to in Guatemala who was using birth control said she did so, “because she couldn’t give the children she had shoes.” Her husband refused to acknowledge the poverty their family suffered and did not want to take any actions to reduce the number of children they might have. To her, the risk of complications during childbirth outweigh any small increased risk of breast cancer. That is my problem with the Catholic church’s, as well as most, religious beliefs. They force an issue as black and white, right and wrong, where there exists a whole plethora of shades of gray between the two. The natural end to having sex is pleasure and reproduction, until you live in an impoverished area of Guatemala in a machismo culture that leaves you little options outside of having sex with your husband as much as he wants and dealing with the eight children you can’t afford to feed.

    Also, the statistic that cites a 0.2% divorce rate among NFP users seems like it may not acknowledge a huge confounding variable. If people are strict practitioners of NFP they most likely are pretty staunch believers in whatever religious affiliation is promoting their practice. Most religions that support NFP also are strongly against divorce. Perhaps these people that practice NFP are not getting divorced because their religious beliefs make it more important for them to maintain their marriage, and not because they aren’t using a form of contraception when they’re having sex?

    • Anonymous

      Don’t you think it might be better to teach and affirm *self-control* rather than enable people to be weak? I mean, think about it. This woman took a drug that filled her body with an unnatural level of hormones so that her husband could have sex with her whenever he wanted regardless of her natural need, her mental health, or her physical health or regards for the health of his family. Is that what a man should be like?

      And if he lacks self-control in this area, why should he have it any other area of his life?

      Why do so many American diets endorse taking a pill so you can still eat as much as you want, while the successful diets involve taking responsibility for how much you eat and of what?

      Would you endorse reduced or eliminated prison stays for those who steal because they don’t have the self-control to save up the money for what they steal instead?

      I suspect you are an advocate for self-control in most areas of life. Why not our sexuality as well?

      • Anonymous

        Probably because there have been congressional studies on abstinence-only education that show it has no effect on whether or not young people have sex. According to the Guttmacher Institute, upwards of 95% of people have sex before they get married.

        Also there is no such thing as a successful diet, just FYI. 95% of dieters will regain the weight; no diet has consistently enabled its dieters to lose weight and keep it off.

    • wineinthewater

      I think you make a common error here. Catholic teaching does not prohibit birth control, only contraception. It is possible to be responsible about procreation without using contraception. In fact, Catholic teaching holds that couples must be responsible about procreation.

      As to NFP users, not all of them are religious. There is a growing trend of NFP use among non-Catholics as well. It has strong resonances with the all-natural community as well, saving women from exposure to hormones, chemicals, heavy metals and latex. In fact some of the leading references for NFP (such as “Taking Charge of Your Fertility”) are quite non-Catholic and even apply NFP in a way that violates Catholic teaching.

    • Caroline

      That NFP statistic is cannot be scientifically justified or defended and it drives me crazy when people pull that out. It’s just some bunk they heard in an NFP class or book. Where there’s NFP there’s divorce because where there’s marriage and people there’s sin. Period.

  • Guest

    Pleasure is the “natural end” of sex while using contraception! And who do you think you are to define the “natural end” of all these acts for everyone? The “natural end” of anything is what one hopes to take away from the act he or she is engaging in.

  • http://everydaymanofgod.com/ Tony Casados

    Full disclosure, I am not Catholic. A dear friend of mine who is Catholic referred me to your blog.

    I believe your comparison of sex to a farmer sowing seed to be misplaced. Though a farmer may derive pleasure from sowing seed, it is with end in mind that he does so. That is, apart from the potential bounty gathered at the time of harvest, there is no pleasure derived. A farmer that did sow joyfully without regard to his harvest would rightfully be judged insane. That is not the case in the act of sex. Though the joy of offspring can certainly enhance the unity, it is not indispensable to it. There are simply too many instances where the joy of sex between those bonded in Christian marriage exists independent of the possibility of children.

    For example the physical unity of a couple past the age of childbearing whose intimacy has been nurtured over many years of divine singularity could hardly be accused of enjoying an experience less than that of a young fertile couple in the early stages of matrimony. The same would be true of a naturally infertile couple. According to the Scripture, it is the physical act itself that brings about the unity, which is why St, Paul warned his readers to steer clear of sexual immorality for the very act brings one into a state of singularity with his partner, even if she happens to be a prostitute. Or course the Apostle is nothing if not pragmatic towards the institution of marriage advising his readers to marry primarily to avoid sexual immorality vs. to fulfill some divine mandate. Church tradition has done much to enhance the sacrament of marriage, but the fundamental truth remains, the oneness of sexual relations comes from the act itself, apart from the potential end in mind.

    Your comparison of sex to eating belies this very truth. We will both agree that eating for the exclusive goal of pleasure is both untenable and immoral. However, it can hardly be disputed that one can eat apart from the singular goal of satiety. When one enjoys exotic chocolate, or partakes of a fine wine are they not eating for the sole purpose of gratification?

    Even your comparison of sex to foreplay is found wanting. It is not accurate that the natural end of of affection outside the marriage bed must end in intercourse or invite frustration. Without going into details, I and my wife of nearly 20 years have enjoyed very passionate and fulfilling physical contact outside of our bed and it did not end in sexual relations nor frustrate either of us. Your comparison belies a rather shallow understanding of the intimacy that develops between a wife and a husband.

    If then the act of sex can and does stand on its own apart from the possibility of procreation, then it can not be argued that the interference with procreation either artificially or naturally (itself a misnomer) is itself an interruption of natural law.

    I eagerly await the the 2nd installment of your defense of the Church’s teaching.

    Respectfully,

    Tony Casados

  • justamouse

    You forgot (with regards to the NFP stats) that semen makes women happy.

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn2457-semen-acts-as-an-antidepressant.html

    Really, it’s amazing how smart that God guy is. ;-)

  • Rtusch

    Great article, but do you mean Henry VIII (six wives, wanted a son, womanizer, broke from Church, etc.), and not his father Henry VII (established Tudor dynasty through War of the Roses)?

  • Musiciangirl591

    i love this article! keep it up and God bless!

  • Imperatoraugustus

    I don’t really know what to make of this. I see what you are standing for but I am a Catholic who is pro contraception, and I gained that opinion after visiting family in the Philippines. I saw priests spending homilies talking of the evils of the RH (reproductive health) Bill, a bill that would legalize family planning and contraception. I saw hordes of poor and miserable children whose parents regretted making those children because they don’t have the means to raise them or feed them. What use is a family if they cannot be happy? At the same time why can’t a couple enjoy the unity and peace and love of sex without worrying of children? My girlfriend uses birth control and we are both perfectly happy and waiting for the means to raise children.

    • Anonymous

      “I saw hordes of poor and miserable children whose parents regretted making those children because they don’t have the means to raise them or feed them. What use is a family if they cannot be happy?”

      I think that this is a common sentiment and an understandable one. It is also behind some justification for abortion.

      But the problem is that contraception is not a solution to an illness, but a medicine that merely masks symptoms without fixing the problem.
      I mean, I know there are a number of things that would be easier in my life if I had fewer/more spaced children…but the children themselves are not the problem, it’s many things as varied as the finitude of time, our bad habits coming into a marriage, sin, and the unfairness of the economic structure that rewards people who play by certain rules of higher education but not those who try to become better people. To name a few.

      Other than personal sin (abuse, especially), poverty is, to my mind, the illness suffered by most families who feel unhappy with the number of children they have. It’s not the children who are the problem. It’s the environment of sinfulness and oppression that makes their families unable to welcome them into the world.

  • Logic

    So I guess I shouldn’t put on gloves either, because that is telling cold temperatures I want all of you, totally, completely, except your chilliness.

  • ssss3333

    Your argument doesn’t hold up when you take into consideration masturbation as a sexual act. Many animals masturbate, which would indicate that it is part natural law to pleasure oneself sexually to the point of orgasm without intent of nature or the animal to reproduce.

    If masturbation is part of nature, which is a sexual act for pleasure, without a chance of reproduction, then wouldn’t sex between two individuals using contraceptives not violate natural law?

    • wineinthewater

      It would have been good to read some of the comments before commenting. Natural Law is a philosophical system. It is not just “what happens in nature.” If you don’t know what Natural Law is, you probably shouldn’t try to refute a Natural Law argument.

  • Raul E. Fernandez

    This is the second or third time I’ve read one of your articles and…well…let’s just say I subscribed.
    Thank you.

  • Liberty 504

    White Christian male wants to keep from getting on birth control? Why am I not surprised LOL

    On a serious note, I found this post illogical. But maybe that’s bc I’m nothing but a birth-control-taking, queer-loving Protestant : P I’ll pray for you, bro.

    • Joseph Usher

      You’re the one who needs our prayers… “bro”!

      • Liberty 504

        Aight. Imma holla at the big man fa u 2

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=730520187 Aaron Lopez

      You found this post illogical, and yet you give no logical alternative to your opposing opinion.

      You see, that’s why it’s historically logical that the Catholic Church was the one that preserved Western philosophy, and continues to use it ’til this day.

      It’s why it’s also logical that you, as a Protestant, should act in the same manner as Martin Luther, who said ‘Nah, I don’t like what you’re doing Papa. I’m going to go do my own thing. I’ll pray for you though!’ and effectively ended it at that.

      Don’t just pray for us, pray for unity and Truth. After all, that’s the most important thing!

    • http://www.scificatholic.com D. G. D. Davidson

      “White Christian male wants to keep from getting on birth control?”

      I am flummoxed trying to figure out what that sentence even means. Why doesn’t it surprise you?

      “I found this post illogical.”

      That’s nice, but it would be helpful if you actually pointed out the logical errors. If you have actually found errors in logic, and are not just giving an emotional reaction, you should be able to point them out quite briefly and with little effort.

  • Guest12345

    Very thoughtful post, thank you. (Although I would point out that NFP use and divorce rate are correlational, not causational. An equally plausible explanation is that people who use NFP are Very Religious and therefore Very Against Divorce, so the divorce rate is lower.)

    The unfortunate thing about NFP is that it all the effort/sacrifice falls on the woman.

    My husband and I got married while I was in school. We have valid reasons for waiting a couple of years to have children. I looked into NFP (and I in fact usually know when I’m ovulating thanks to NFP), but I decided that, if we conceived, it would feel like my “fault,” like I had read my signals wrong (that feeling would from within, not from Hubby). That’s not really how I wanted to begin family life. Somehow you (and others) got the idea that it’s always the man that wants the contraception – not so in our marriage – and I would venture that my married female friends feel similarly.

    I also find that I’m more, ahem, in the mood when I’m ovulating. Why does the church ask women to sacrifice this? As a modern woman, I struggle with the Church’s place for women, and this doesn’t exactly help.

    A friend was informed by a priest that, at Vatican II, it was actually a vocal minority, not the majority, that decided that birth control was not allowed. Food for thought.

    • wineinthewater

      It’s not really food for thought since it isn’t true. This is one of those things where “the Spirit of Vatican II” is being used as an alternate magisterium.

      Before writing Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI consulted a commission. That commission came down on the side of permitting contraceptives. But the Catholic faith holds that the Pope is preserved from doctrinal error, but papal commissions enjoy no such protection from the Holy Spirit. It is telling that all of the ills that Humanae Vitae said would come about from the normalization of contraception have come about. In fact, HV was prescient in not only what ills would emerge in society, but how they would emerge.

      But Vatican II was not a part of that. If the priest said that it was part of VII, then you see that trend of trying to establish a “true” intent of VII that runs contrary of what VII actually says.

      • Guest12345

        I’ll admit that my knowledge was thirdhand, so it was likely a game of telephone where the message became distorted. Hence it was a small piece of my comment. I would have been more interested to hear your response to the rest of my commentary, particularly about women’s place in the Church.

        • http://www.scificatholic.com D. G. D. Davidson

          Well

  • MEY8014

    Someone needs to get laid..

    • Anonymous

      I look forward to the Humanae Vitae passage that will go here…..

  • http://www.scificatholic.com D. G. D. Davidson

    The statistics on how many Catholics use contraception are a red herring. Morality is not a matter of popular opinion. Statistics are irrelevant to a discussion of ethics.

  • http://www.scificatholic.com D. G. D. Davidson

    Heaven forbid that anything should be pious.

    On a different note, I partly agree; but the statistic on how many Catholics use contraception is irrelevant to the discussion. What is ethical and what is not is not decided by majority vote.

  • http://www.scificatholic.com D. G. D. Davidson

    You are playing a word game. “Natural” in this context has a specific meaning. It means the telos, the end of the act, its purpose, not what you observe in the wild and wooly outdoors.

    This is a common mistake, and the people who make it need to to go back to school or crack a philosophical dictionary before trying to enter a discussion like this.

  • http://www.scificatholic.com D. G. D. Davidson

    Perhaps it is rude to point it out, but I can’t help but notice that you are in this comment implicitly supporting fornication as well as contraception.

    One evil leads to another.

    • http://www.scificatholic.com D. G. D. Davidson

      Please ignore this; I believe it ended up in the wrong place.

  • Strohmcsmile

    I understand all this so much better then I did 20 minutes ago. Thanks!!

  • Teresa Kurth

    Sorry I am too lazy to read through all the comments and see if someone already mentioned this but just wanted to point out:
    Be sure when you are speaking of the Pill being used for medical purposes and not for the purpose of preventing pregnancy that you do not call it contraception. Contraception specifically refers only to those actions that seek to prevent conception from occurring, that can be the Pill or a condom or pulling out or a vasectomy. When any of those things are primarily used to prevent conception they are contracepting and the Church is always adamantly opposed to ANY form of contraception.

  • Ryan

    To say that a organism has a “natural end” is a misunderstanding of the process of evolution. Natural selection is not a goal oriented and purpose driven process, it is blind.
    Purpose comes solely from conscious agents. Since humans are conscious agents, WE are the one that give sex a purpose.

    • http://www.scificatholic.com D. G. D. Davidson

      I’m afraid some of you fellows commenting on here need to go back to school and study teleology before you try to contribute to a discussion like this. Telos exists in nature, and even those who deny it have to sneak it in the back door in order to talk meaningfully about much of anything. You can’t speak of natural selection without speaking of telos. The natural end of natural selection is to select for traits well-adapted to the environment.

      Similarly, you cannot speak of organisms without speaking of telos. The purpose of a wing is to fly, for example. Even in ostriches and penguins, the shape of the wing indicates its purpose. The purpose of an eye is to see, and even if you describe it down to the molecule, you haven’t fully described an eyeball until you describe its purpose.

      The purpose of the genitals is generation, hence their name. The purpose of sex is sexual reproduction, hence the term. You can’t even say that the purpose of sex is something other than sex without talking nonsense.

    • http://www.scificatholic.com D. G. D. Davidson

      I’m afraid some of you fellows commenting on here need to go back to school and study teleology before you try to contribute to a discussion like this. Telos exists in nature, and even those who deny it have to sneak it in the back door in order to talk meaningfully about much of anything. You can’t speak of natural selection without speaking of telos. The natural end of natural selection is to select for traits well-adapted to the environment.

      Similarly, you cannot speak of organisms without speaking of telos. The purpose of a wing is to fly, for example. Even in ostriches and penguins, the shape of the wing indicates its purpose. The purpose of an eye is to see, and even if you describe it down to the molecule, you haven’t fully described an eyeball until you describe its purpose.

      The purpose of the genitals is generation, hence their name. The purpose of sex is sexual reproduction, hence the term. You can’t even say that the purpose of sex is something other than sex without talking nonsense.

  • Ryan

    To say that a organism has a “natural end” is a misunderstanding of the process of evolution. Natural selection is not a goal oriented and purpose driven process, it is blind.
    Purpose comes solely from conscious agents. Since humans are conscious agents, WE are the one that give sex a purpose.

  • Janine

    As a first time reader, I heartily applaud what you are doing with your blog. We desperately need articulate, educated people such as yourself to spread the message of our good and holy Mother, the Church. (Yes, this is shameless butt-kissing since I’m about to question something you said).
    You quote Humanae Vitae as saying “The Church does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there from—provided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever.” and the implication is that His Holiness was referring to birth control. I believe what this statement is referring to are other medications (not contraceptives) such as chemotherapy medications which may have the same effect in the sense of altering a person’s fertility. However, the Church is very clear that the use of hormonal birth control to treat actual medical conditions is acceptable ONLY in circumstances where abstinence is assured. Therefore, a married woman taking the pill for endometriosis, for example, is still committing the sin of contracepting if she continues to have intercourse with her husband.

    Thanks for listening.

    • Annony11

      Where and how is the Church clear on that topic? If a woman, married or not, is taking hormonal birth control for a legitimate medical condition, then the limitations on her fertility are merely a side effect, just as they would be with chemo. Now, if a married woman was using the pill for a medical condition but also glad that this was giving her an “excuse” to morally use it, then I see your point. Otherwise, I’m very curious as to how you support the claim that a married woman must be abstinent because she is treating a medical condition.

  • Minaminogue

    I love my depo-provera. I thank God everyday for contraception.

  • Quargo

    I feel like this argument is flawed from the beginning. I would agree with this idea of natural law if humans were living in a world where natural law could exist with us. If we lived and died like all other species, then not having contraceptives would be great. The earth would naturally not allow our population to become this large in numbers, and we could have sex like rabbits, as the saying goes, and everything would be fine. But we have houses, heat, food, water, shelter. I think this argument can only be had by the person who lives completely in the wilderness.
    My second argument is people do eat, and people eat too much. And therefore there is an obesity issue. Now, I think there could be an argument in this whole natural law idea, that people are supposed to eat and naturally if there is food, that they will eat and eat and eat, because in our past food was not so readily available (I’m talking evolutionary here and from an first world country perspective). I would argue that following the natural law on eating is therefore detrimental to an individual’s health and to society. Sometimes, it is not a good idea to follow natural law.
    Third, it is kind of neat of the benefits of pregnancy. But have there been studies on the emotional and physical health of people who did not want to get pregnant? And isn’t it true that the earlier you get pregnant the sooner you die (I’m not making that one up, I’m pretty sure I learned that one in college science class).
    Now, one might argue well just don’t have sex if you don’t want to get pregnant. That would make sense. But I believe not everyone is under the same belief system, so they don’t see pregnancy as a means to have children, but means to something else. Either way, some would say not having sex goes against the natural law. There would need to be some flip flopping of perspectives for this to be an argument for the viewpoint this article is taking.
    This article also doesn’t talk about the consequences of overpopulation, but I can’t remember what the Catholic Church believes on that topic and the negative consequences it has to the earth. If it doesn’t support contraceptives, but supports natural law, I would think they would be all for changing the earth. That would be quite irresponsible of them. After all God created the earth right? and so therefore we are stewards of the earth. Catholic Church, you have conflicting policies or my common sense path of their beliefs is wrong. Can anyone please explain?
    I think the Catholic Church has some very good beliefs, but this belief is not one of them.
    Feel free to respond anyone. I look forward to exchanging ideas.

    • http://www.scificatholic.com D. G. D. Davidson

      Please learn what the issue is about before commenting. Natural Law does not mean “what happens in nature,” nor does it mean, “what would be good if things were ideal,” nor does it mean, “how we would behave if we were noble savages,” nor does it mean “what our instincts tell us.”

      To take your eating example: Natural Law indicates that the primary end of eating is to sustain the body. To eat in accordance with Natural Law will tend to sustain the body, and to do otherwise will cause harm. To “eat and eat and eat” as you describe is contrary to Natural Law, a term you do not understand, and not in accordance with it. Natural reason indicates that the body’s health is to be sustained by eating moderately; if the appetite for food is immoderate (demanding more than the body should have) or disordered (demanding things that are not food), it must be resisted or suppressed.

      Similarly, Natural Law indicates that the primary end of sex is sex, that is, reproduction. If the appetite is immoderate or disordered, it must be resisted or suppressed.

      The natural end of sex exists in nature. To claim that its natural end is not reproduction is obviously false, regardless of a person’s beliefs. People who convince themselves that sex is about something other than sex should be corrected, not indulged.

  • http://twitter.com/PuritasKelly Kelly O’Brien

    Great post. I love the analogies you used. It’s stunning how content people are with stuffing themselves in a dark closet and even convince themselves that the best they can be is wilted, withered, and brown. Thanks for speaking up for humanity…

  • Brenda Becker

    As good an exegesis as I’ve ever read, and I’ve been working to form my conscience on this for 30 years. (Still only 80% of the way there, but you may have moved me from 75%.) Particular plaudits for solid use of med literature references, a rarity (I am a veteran med-sci journalist).

  • JJ

    Maybe this comparison is way off base, but with all this talk of the “natural end,” why is it not wrong for a food handler or a doctor to wear rubber gloves? It prevents germs and bacteria from their natural end of spreading and multiplying just as a condom would with sperm. As somebody else mentioned, it seems wrong to be selective about where these rules should apply. Just a thought.

    • CCCtchr

      JJ, the biological purpose of the sexual embrace is to place the man’s sperm in the woman’s body. Natural law insists that this is what is to happen; the creature that cannot do it will not reproduce.

      The biological purpose of a doctor touching a patient, though, is not to spread germs, but to find and fix germs that have been spread. And, no food handler is forced by nature to spread germs by the very act of touching food. Natural law seems to allow for the transmission of bacteria, but does not mandate it by the actions you list.

      Rubbers are used (sadly) to prevent something that is supposed to happen, because babies make the world go ’round. Rubber gloves are used (thankfully) to prevent something that’s not supposed to happen, because no one likes Ebola. It’s not selective, it’s logical.

      • LisaL

        Let’s not bring logic into this! The whole of the commentary would thus be invalid!

  • Neil

    I quite liked this article, which is well written and easily readable, but found it unconvincing for several reasons. First is that I don’t believe the Bible actually supports it. Yes, God definitely told Adam and Eve to ‘go forth and multiply’, but nowhere in the Bible does it say anything about masturbation, or (more importantly, for this argument) sex after menopause. If conception is as important a result of the sexual act as unity, then you would expect the Bible to be clear about this. Also, Paul instructs that it is okay for widows to remarry, provided their husbands to be are believers. Admittedly some of them would be young, but it is not unimaginable that some were past childbearing age; so, we have someone who has been brought up studying Torah all his life not thinking this worth mentioning. In fact, the Bible doesn’t mention contraception at all in any way; it just affirms that sex is a natural part of marriage.
    Second, I cannot see that NFP is any better from this point of view. Surely if a couple are ONLY having sex during infertile periods deliberately, then this just as much removes the possibility of pregnancy (the ‘natural end’ you refer to). And yet, NFP is promoted by the Catholic Church officially.
    And, third, I disagree that contraception inevitably harms the relationship. While I accept that the attitudes you portrayed can and do exist, it is more likely that a couple have decided between them that they will be using contraception. In this case, they are working together, and I would say this is supportive of the relationship rather than destructive

    • Sarah Fisher

      Agreed – and I would also say that having another child past the point a couple can afford their family, would be more destructive than allowing the couple to enjoy their love physically any time they choose without fear. If we already have three children we love and cherish on a middle class income – three college degrees to save for, potentially three weddings to save for, etc – I’d hate to be terrified of a financially crippling fourth baby, every time I made love to my husband.

    • Ceckiz Gzz

      Then you certainly have never ever heard about the Theology of the Body that explains the points you make on 2 and 3. Ignore what your Church is and you will be defeated time after time. Get to know it more, and you can restore your virginity.

  • Peggy

    For the sake of accuracy, the article pointed to in the link “have been proven to reduce a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer by less than 1% per year of use”, states a 7% decrease in risk for ovarian cancer per year of use. The numbers I believe he refers to as “less than 1%” are actually odds ratios, not percentages. The benefit is only additive for 5-7 years, though, and levels out at 52%.
    Marc accurately cites (and actually understates) the protection provided by pregnancy, which was 40% for first live birth, plus 14% more for every additional live birth.
    So in all fairness, about 6 years of low dose oral contraception provides comparable risk reduction as 2 children. However, additional children provide greater protection than oral contraception, so I will sleep well knowing my 2 sisters, with 4 and 5 kids each, are highly unlikely to get ovarian cancer!
    I’m not sure if one could make the argument that the pill is worth taking solely for the benefit of risk reduction for ovarian cancer in any case. I asked my OB/GYN about it and she did not think the benefit was worth the potential, and more probable, side effects. Otherwise we should be recommending that every nun take 6 years worth of the pill, since they have a much higher rate of ovarian cancer than the general population. (I can’t link to a study, but most any nun will tell you that. Of course it’s because you have a homogenous population of older women who have likely never been pregnant and likely never been on the pill.)

  • Kmmiller1961

    Thank you!!! I’ll be passing this along! Very well done!

  • http://twitter.com/MatthewWheeland Matt Wheeland

    I really enjoyed the article. Very thought provoking and humorous.

    I also enjoy reading the points regarding natural law.

    However, one point that I, at least initially, have trouble with is: “We tell our sexual partners, in the act of sex, I want all of you, totally, completely, except your fertility.” Now, this point is a strong one to me because of it’s emotional power, but as I analyze it’s logic, it seems less potent. Here’s why: if you go by NFP (or at least, my assumptions regarding it, which may be incorrect) the guy “plans” not to have sex with his wife on her ovulated time period, then he is, in fact, saying essentially the same thing “I want all of you, except for your fertility.” Or at least “during your most fertile moments.”

    • wineinthewater

      One thing to keep in mind is that a woman’s fertility is cyclical. The NFP couple embraces the cyclical nature of that fertility, works with naturally fertility rather than against it.

      I think one of the harder things for many people to grasp is that Catholic teaching addresses two separate issues: intent and means.

      Within Catholic teaching, birth control for just reasons is actually permitted. This is why Catholics can use NFP; it is birth control after all. But the “just reason” is key. Ability to provide for a child (either materially or emotionally) and health reasons can both create a just reason to delay conception. But these must be genuine, so somthing like saving for a car or some other non-essential material good doesn’t count. And that is the other part of a just reason, it can only be a reason to delay conception until the just reason is gone .. even if the couple can never manage to eliminate that just cause. So, an NFP couple can commit the same sin as a couple using condoms.

      The other issue is means. Within Catholic teaching, birth control *can* be licit, but not all forms of birth control are licit. Like I said above, a woman’s fertility is naturally cyclical. When we avail ourselves of that cyclical nature in order to delay conception, we are embracing that created fertility. However, when we take means to actively render the man or woman infertile, we exclude human fertility from sex.

      • http://twitter.com/MatthewWheeland Matt Wheeland

        Thank you for your reply.

        I’m not convinced about your point, maybe I misunderstand it (if I do, please forgive me), about excluding fertility. I’m just not understanding how birth control such as “the pill” excludes fertility.

        If the couple mutually agrees that this is not the season to have children, then the pill is simply the means of carrying out that decision (same decision as NFP but a different means). So why does NFP “include” fertility and “the pill” does not? If there is no conception, there is not fertility, correct?

        I understand your point about the cyclical nature of fertility. But the cycle returns when you get off the pill. So it’s not a permanent rejection, just a temporary one–it seems like the NFP does the same–the couple merely avoids those days most likely to conceive. Therefore NFP rejects the cycle, just in a different way.

        • wineinthewater

          So, let’s just assume that the intent is good. After all, just because a couple is using contraception doesn’t mean that they don’t have just cause to delay conception.

          So let’s consider what the pill is as a means. The cyclical fertility of a couple is part of how created them. The pill destroys that (even if only temporarily). It makes it impossible for the woman to give herself totally, because her fertility has been suppressed. She cannot give it because she does not have it. Likewise, a condom prevents the man from giving his fertility to his wife. It is essentially “captured” and discarded. Either way, the couple has introduced something between them, a barrier to total gift of self.

          The NFP couple does not reject the cycle, they embrace it. They are able to give themselves fully because because they are, in their created nature, infertile at that moment. They have done nothing to destroy or withhold that part of themselves. They have done nothing to sterilize themselves, they have destroyed nothing, they are simply infertile at that point in the cycle, as God created them. They are cooperating with the way they were created rather than trying to undo the way they were created.

          • http://twitter.com/MatthewWheeland Matt Wheeland

            Thanks for your reply.

            For clarification, what do you mean by fertility? And how is fertility “full given” by the female who uses NFP?

            I think your point that the pill “destroys” fertility is an overstatement. It merely temporarily SUSPENDS the possibility to conceive for a mutual, agreed upon time period decided by the couple.

            It doesn’t seem that NFP “embraces the cycle” as you say because the couple skips sex during the only time period the woman can conceive. This skipping of the ovulation period seems to be caused by the same decision made my the couple who uses the pill.

            Do you agree that the decision to post pone conception is not a sin? I think then, if so, our difference is on the MEANS of carrying out the decision to delay conception. But I’m still confused by what the article (and your comment) means by fertility. Could you explain?

          • wineinthewater

            The decision to postpone conception may or may not be a sin. It all depends on the reason. If the reasons are selfish (eg saving for a nice vacation, don’t want the impact on the body, don’t want to give up luxuries to pay for another child, don’t want to give up the time for another child, etc.) then it is a sin. If they are serious (eg really can’t afford another child even with the simplification of life, pregnancy would put the woman’s life in grave danger, couple doesn’t have the emotional stability for a(nother) child, etc.) and they are working to remedy the problem, then it isn’t a sin.

            So beyond that, it really is about means. Unfortunately, the words make it tough. But think of it this way: a woman’s fertility *is* a cycle of fertile and infertile periods. Her fertility is not just the fertile period, it is the entire cycle. The couple who uses NFP embraces the woman’s *cyclical* fertility and works with it to delay conception. The NFP couple embraces the gift of a cyclical fertility. With contraception, the creation of fertility is impaired/wounded/excluded. In the pill, this part of the woman, this cycle of fertile and infertile periods that compose her fertility, is chemically suppressed. And the irony is that it is suppressed by tricking her body into thinking it’s pregnant.

            The contracepting couple cannot make a total gift of themselves because they are in some way impairing their fertility, suppressing it or blocking it or redirecting it. The NFP couple is giving of themselves fully in that moment (a woman in her infertile period is no less herself than that woman in her fertile period) and achieve the delay of conception through mutual sacrifice, through abstaining.

  • LisaL

    Are you serious? You don’t seriously buy into these illogical arguments, do you?. As a 43 year old happily married (25 yrs), Catholic woman with three kids I believe that God understands why family planning is necessary and morally responsible in society today. While I agree that every couple should have children, when should be up to the couple. There are many factors to consider for a young couple. They need to develop their relationship and learn to live and love with each other, to get established and settled before bringing a baby into the home. Sexuality is an important part of married life. It’s not just about getting pleasure – its about the pleasure you give to the person you love and the closeness, the oneness of the couple.

    I use to buy into the Church’s teachings. I went to a Catholic high school (Franciscan) and two Catholic colleges (1 Franciscan, 1 Jesuit) and was taught the “sympto-thermal” method of birth control (rhythm method). I gave up on this after our 2nd child. It doesn’t work and is illogical and irresponsible. I had very difficult pregnancies and while pregnant for our 2nd child that almost killed us both, my husband and I made the decision for him to have a vasectomy – I know, a sin in the eyes of the Church – but the doctors were very clear that if I became pregnant again, our daughters would be growing up without their mother. Far more devastating than birth control, don’t you think? It was a difficult decision as we wanted three children (we later adopted a son) but it was one of the best decisions we have made and do not regret it at all. Your argument about “not achieving a natural end” is an absolute falsehood. We have a wonderful physical and emotional loving relationship. We have not “withered” like a rosebush in a closet but bloomed like a daisy in the sun.

    I respect your opinion and the teachings of the Church but I believe that this is a doctrine of the male hierarchy of the Church and not the word or intent of God’s commandments.

    • Mick Chaney

      Every couple most certainly should not have children. How absurd.

  • Zuluchola

    If engaging in sexual intercourse is both for unity and procreation, then what about homosexuals? If they engage in sodomy, isn’t that eliminating procreation – therefore to an extend you are implying that the nature of the organism will suffer? Natural law is also about rights – the new Enlightenment. In which Homosexuality was decriminalised during the 1950′s, bcause the State held that the engagement of sexual intercourse between two consenual males is not harmining anyone. So if the elimination of the procreation is not harming anyone per say, then the organism is not suffering.

    I do agree that the acceptance of contraception does cause ‘ consequence-free sexual vice’ and it also brings about this is illified illusion that using a condom is having safe sex – safe sex goes beyond that. They should advertise – BEFORE you get into bed with someone – GET TESTED TOGETHER.

  • Julie

    Interesting post. I enjoyed it. The one thing I’ve never really been able to wrap my arms around, though, is that natural family planning somewhat goes against how God designed our bodies. If a married couple wants to avoid getting pregnant, they avoid having sex at the time it is most likely they could get pregnant… when she is ovulating. This is when her body naturally most wants sex… God designed a woman’s body, when she is ovulating, to have the highest sex drive. It’s as if her body is saying “have sex, have sex, have sex.” But if a married couple purposely ignores this God designed urge, isn’t that essentially going against the natural law?

    Just curious as to your thoughts on that. I know you’ve gotten many comments, so I understand if you can’t respond.

    Thanks again for the post.

    • Rose

      The problem with this sort of attitude is that it assumes the Catholic Church is against birth control on the most basic level. Birth control (simply meaning the attempt to control when a child is conceived) is not intrinsically wrong. Contraception is morally wrong because of the means it uses to attain that goal. NFP is not morally wrong because nothing is done to thwart God’s design.

      As you said, God designed a woman’s body to have the highest sex drive when she is ovulating. How do we know this? Because God designed the woman’s cycle in a way that can be observed and charted. If God wanted sex to be solely about procreation, why are we not fertile the entire cycle?

      The big difference between contraception and NFP are the means they use and the attitudes they represent. Contraception says “my body (or my wife’s body) is flawed and I must find some way through hormones or barriers to change my body to my fertility.” NFP says “God designed my body (or my wife’s body) in a wondrous way which includes my (her) fertility. He has also made it possible to see when I am most likely (not) to (people forget that NFP is often used to achieve pregnancy as well as postpone) conceive. I understand that this is part of who I am and so I will choose (not) to have sex at a particular time in hopes of postponing/achieving conception.”

      Another example that I have heard used is that of sending invitations to a wedding. A couple could send an invitation to Aunt Sally even though they know she is on the other side of the country and highly unlikely to show up. Just as with NFP, if Aunt Sally decides to attend, they will joyfully welcome her even if they didn’t expect her to attend. In contrast, the couple could send a note telling Aunt Sally that she is not welcome and to please not attend their wedding. As with contraception, there is still a chance that she will attend but the couple is much less likely to welcome her with open arms.

      You didn’t express this in your post but I’ve often seen people argue that NFP is wrong because it avoids God’s plan by choosing not to have sex. I’m not married so I can’t say with absolute certainty, but I highly doubt that every Catholic married couple has sex every day. Not having sex is not wrong. There will be times when one or both are sick, out of town, tending to a sick child, working late, not in the mood, etc. Unless someone demands that a couple have sex every single day of their marriage in order not to thwart God’s plan it seems silly to require them to do so simply because the woman is ovulating.

  • Mark

    All I can say is that your belief does not square with my life experience. I know two couples who are very healthy and had a good life together, which includes sex. One couple is my Uncle and Aunt who chose not to have children. The other friends of mine, who cannot have children, but in all other respects are amazingly happy and healthy.

  • honestlyana

    Okay well this is @$#%. If we didn’t have contraception, our world would be even more overpopulated. No, I don’t have sex. Yes I am a virgin waiting for my first time with my future husband. Sex should stay inside marriage but I think the woman should have the choice to use contraceptives without ridicule from you people. Overpopulation is a serious issue. The world is already heavily exploited because there are too many people on the planet! Contraceptives have helped reduce the population and also prevented a lot of abortions. I honestly don’t think God is going to smite you if you end up having 2 children when you could have had 6.

  • Katie

    I disagree with the basic premise that everything, including humans, have a “natural end.” If we are going to lump humans in with other animals, we need to take the fact that other animals are frequently sexually promiscuous without any negative effects. If we wish to reject that then, and say that sex is an act of love, unlike that which happens between two wild lions, for example, then we need to assume that humans are, in some way, set aside from the rest of the world. This should not be too difficult for the Catholic person to do anyway, but there is a logical consequence of this: humans are set apart from the rest of the world, and so things that are true for other life may not be true for humans. Thus arguments for a “natural end” can’t rely on “everything” having a natural end, they must come from something innately human. To me, this is a desire to live a good life. Humans don’t want to die, and humans want to be happy (please not that I am not arguing for physical enjoyment here, but long term enjoyment; a person may suffer to volunteer building houses in South America, for example, but gain enough from the experience that it is overall positive. This is what I mean by “happy”).

    So look at the only other analogy offered that refers to humans; the author claims that the problem with bulimia is that it doesn’t pursue the natural end of eating. There is enjoyment of the food, but no practical sustaining purpose. I reject this, and argue instead the the reason we object to bulimia is because the act of not consuming food alone leads to death. I don’t believe that anyone looks at a person literally starving due to an eating disorder and says, “That is bad because s/he is not pursuing his/her natural purpose.” We all say, “That person is deathly ill, and therefore that is wrong.” Now compare the use of contraception. The use of contraception itself does not lead to death. I will set aside the arguments against the pill for now (though it should be pointed out that the article cited about prostate cancer explicitly says, more than once, that there is no known correlation between use of the pill and prostate cancer and that no formal study has been done on that connection – there is a correlation, but no causation). I don’t know enough about those studies. But other contraceptives DO NOT lead immediately to death of the person using them. Using a condom may lead to decreased pleasure (I, too, do not have any experience with this), but that isn’t going to kill either person. Death due to contraceptives is a freak occurrence, rare than death due to driving in a car, and therefore can’t be used to argue against contraception unless it is also used to argue against the use of cars.

    Even the pill, if those studies are accurate, does not lead immediately to the death of the person using them even as much as smoking does, and yet I have never seen a strictly religious argument against smoking. If the dangers of the pill have moral implications, then why is that not true of cigarettes? And if it is true of smoking, why has that not been discussed? The conclusion of this line of questioning is that the only reason for this argument here is that it gives a convenient “scientific” weight to the religious argument against contraception, pursuing a predetermined course against something already determined to be wrong. It is nothing more than a rationalization, not a true argument.

    A few final notes; to argue that sex with contraception is a rejection of your partner on some level is, simply put, ridiculous. It is an acceptance of your partner; I love you so much, that I will do this act with you, even though i am not ready for a child. No form of contraception is perfect, there is always a risk of pregnancy, to risk that when it is undesired is a greater expression of love than to do the act with the desire of pregnancy.

    Families that use NPF are more likely to be religious, and therefore more likely to be conservative on their view of divorce. The believe that they have a duty fo by happy in their marriage. This offers an obvious alternative explanation to why couples who use NFP have a lower divorce rate, and since that has not been thoroughly investigated, the author’s argument is not sufficient.

    The mentality that sex has no consequences come much more from abstinence-only teaching than from availability of contraception; if people are not taught the consequences of STDs and pregnancy, how can they have anything other than a consequence-free mentality towards sex?

  • http://www.facebook.com/richard.plumb Richard Plumb

    This is a terrible article and you should feel bad for writing it.

  • Paul

    Natural law originates with Aristotelian philosophy which is not part of the Bible. I am a catholic christian, not a pagan like Aristotle, so I’m not so swayed by Aristotle’s points of view when it comes to how I should lead my life. That being said, the argument is faulty in this article. Why does uncontrolled reproduction benefit the organism? At some point, the organism has so many kids that you cannot take care of them or yourself properly. If everyone else does the same and has uncontrolled amounts of children, then famine, war and disease will become more common which is not good for any of the organisms involved. How can ending up in a situation like that be the natural fulfillment of the end of the organism? One thing I can think of that reproduces uncontrollably in nature is cancer, and that kills the organism. I guess we could argue endlessly here, but I think this entire natural law argument is so inappropriate to be inserted within Christianity that it makes me really worried we have been led astray by Satan.

    The article takes the position that people are picking between always using contraception or never using it. That is not the case, people don’t use condoms when they want to reproduce and use them when they don’t want to reproduce. You can have one, two or three kids and still have met your natural need for a family. You don’t need, and generally don’t want, twelve kids and if you do, you can go ahead and do that.

    If you really apply this natural law argument to celibacy, then celibacy is unnatural since it doesn’t achieve the end for the organism of reproducing itself. You see how this natural law argument leads to conclusions that go against what is taught in the Bible, since clearly Saint Paul stated celibacy is good for you if you can do it? This is lucifer at work my friend.

    I agree with the church that any method that aborts a fertilized egg is a sin. But condoms prevent conception, therefore there is no life and no sin.
    This entire ban of condoms has caused so many married couples unnecessary pain and suffering, and taken away some of the joy of sex in marriage. The natural rhythm method gives a 95% success yearly rate of no pregnancy, which after 10 consecutive years means you have a 40% chance of having an unwanted pregnancy, which then exposes them to the temptation of abortion. This is if you apply the method perfectly, which is not easy. And you have to deny yourself sex with your wife for a good chunk of the month. The whole thing about not giving yourself completely to your spouse if you use a condom is also a faulty logical argument; you and your wife decide when you are open to have a baby by mutual consent. Even Saint Paul agreed that you can deny each other your bodies by mutual consent for short periods of time. This doesn’t perfectly apply here, but it gives you an idea that you and your wife have some leeway to decide things like this.
    Another argument frequently used against condom use and the pull out method is the sin of Onas. The sin was to take advantage of his sister in law, disobey God’s law regarding giving a son to his dead brother and being a greedy person due to his motivation to get the inheritance; he showed no love to God and to his family. The spilling of the seed was a peripheral aspect to the sin. Just like using a knife to murder someone is a sin, but using the same knife to cut some meat for dinner is not a sin. The tool is not the sin.

    Anyway, many catholics have been turned off, divided and ultimately tempted to grave sins like abortion by this ban on condoms. I pray that the church will come back to the teachings in the Bible and will reject these foreign elements introduced through time. Every generation is blessed by God with brilliant minds, we should not be bound by the errors in judgment of past generations.


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