Artificial Contraception, European Demographics

A reader left this as a comment on a post about European demographics here, and it was too good not to post.

17 "Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection."


Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae

Comments

Samuel said…
I think Pope Paul VI was addressing artificial birth control (not quite the broader issue if European demographics, which would include immigration).

My response to Paul VI is that there are also consequences to not exercising birth control---some horrific and socially irresponsible.

First, married couple should be permitted the right to practice birth control as they see fit (according to their family planning). This includes married couples and people of other beliefs. So in that respect birth control has its place and advantages in a free democratic society.

Second, we're living in countries (Europe and other western democracies) that are comprised of people of many religious and ideological persuasions, and they should be given the right to use such artificial controls. (Unless one believes in a state where people do not have religious and non-religious freedoms.) The responsible state must permit the use of artificial contraception for its varied populace (unless it aims to police people's bedrooms).

Third, artificial contraception is essential in the reduction of all kinds of STDs. Whether we like it or not, both Christians and non-Christians are going to have sexual relations---whether we institute methods of birth control or not. As such, it is wiser to make such safer practices available to society than to expose it to its many dangers (consider how AIDS affected Africa before the introduction of condoms).

Fourth, the Catholic church is one to talk about artificial contraception when its priests have a growing problem with pedophilia, which is much more immoral. If they don't believe that priests should marry, and allow them no sexual outlet, then they are incompetent to preach artificial contraception to its people or to others.

Fifth, many Catholics aren't listening. They'll keep doing what is right in their own eyes and let the Pope dream away from life's realities.

Sixth, speaking of "moral law," it is more immoral to allow the spread of diseases when you can do something to reduce it and not do it. A consequence of the Pope's 'moral' preaching against contraception is the immorality of its consequences: the spread of diseases.


Pope Paul VI: Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

That's so naive, one-sided, and subjective. Why isn't the woman also 'using' the man as an 'instrument' for her own satisfaction? And who's he to say how a generic man and woman feel about each other to make such a general statement (as if millions of couples feel that way)? If we take such absurd liberties to these simplistic extremes then we may as well say that pretty much most catholic priests are pedophiles---resulting from their sexual suppression. Consequently, and to correct Pope Paul VI, a man's feeling for a woman (and conversely) does not depend on whether he's wearing a rubber band or whether she took a pill. Why, they could be a happily married couple using contraception!

It's no wonder why many Catholics just stopped listening to their Popes' absurdities on such important social issues. They just let him talk and theologize, while they go on living their lives. If there is one demographic you want to worry about, that's one internal demographic for Catholics to ponder: are our people really on board with us?
Brett said…
Samuel,

First, from the outset of the encyclical it is clear he is speaking to fellow Catholics. This is not a mandate for gov't control of the bedroom.

Second, I think you are overlooking the bigger picture he is talking about. That actions have consequences. We want to live in a world where we are protected from the consequences of those actions. You are right, Christians and non Christians alike are going to have sex whether we like it or not. But they do so in the knowledge that it has consequences.

Condoms aren't fail safe as are other birth control methods which come with a laundry list of health risks. I have two girls in my office who are 7-8 months pregnant. One was on birth control, the other was using condoms. Their boyfriends are now nowhere to be found, but they took responsibility for their actions.

The beauty of sex reserved for the marriage bed is that the two really can become one flesh. We get the ultimate privelidge of sharing in the act of creation. The Catholic Church is not against every form of birth control. It is very supportive of Natural Family Planning.

On a scale of 1-10... premarital sex is an 11. But it is unsustainable and it is usually used as a salve to mask other problems in a relationship. The sex in a marital relationship may not always be as passionate, but it is deeper and more wonderful. There is a comfort and a completeness in knowing that this person has chosen to be with you forever.

Believe me, there is a huge difference between waiting for your girlfriend's pregancy test than waiting for your wife's. As a guy there is still that fear, but as a husband, there is mixed in it an excitement that wasn't present before. Because that commitment and openness to life is there.

As for the quote you highlighted.... If you note he is not making a general sweeping statement, but saying that it may happen.

He "may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection."

It may happen and it does. I would say unqualified that it tends to happen in unmarried couples more so precisely because there isnt that same level of commitment and openness to the consequences that are there in marriage.

Qualified I would say it happens in married couples because of other contributing factors in the relationship as well. Men and women are coming into marital relationships now with unrealistic expectations about sex. Too much sensuality on tv, too easy access to pornographic material. Then they get into marriage and find it is different. They get disappointed, and turn to pornography or other outlets. They feel undersexed and begin seeing their wives as just objects to satisfy their desires. My wife has talked to many women for whom sex with their husbands has simply become work. There is no union anymore.

Now whether the biggest contributing factor is the use of birth control, who is to say, but I do see his point. It takes a consequence away from the husband and to a degree can distance himself from his wife. But I believe much of that is prevented by the commitment and openness to life within a marriage covenant.
Samuel said…
Thanks Brett for your kind and gentle response, it is appreciated. We agree on many points but there are a few on which we have slightly different takes (perhaps worthy of sharing).

First, from the outset of the encyclical it is clear he is speaking to fellow Catholics.

Actually, Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae was addressed to Catholics, yes, and "to all men of good will." (See header.)

Second, I think you are overlooking the bigger picture he is talking about. That actions have consequences.

Actually, that's my reaction to the Pope's comment since he's looking at consequences from one end and ignoring the consequences from the other end. If we don't have contraception then we have many more births out of wedlock (promoting poverty) and more sexually transmitted diseases. These to me are greater (social) evils than the consequences the Pope states. I'm simply going with the lesser evil.

Of course, birth controls aren't fail safe, but that's not their purpose, but to reduce the chances of unwanted pregnancies and reduce the spread of diseases. (Keyword: reduce, not prevent or fail-safe.) In the case of the two girls you mentioned, the result would have been the same even without birth control; and their boyfriends' lack of responsibility is independent of birth control. And who knows whether in fact they practiced birth control when they engaged and became pregnant? Some couples get so passionately engaged they throw the condom out the window. Of course, we both feel for the pains these girls are going thru.

There is a comfort and a completeness in knowing that this person has chosen to be with you forever.

Of course, and there is the legal binding that comes along with it that helps the mother support her child. However, in today's world of 50% divorce rate (in North America & West) one feels less comfort and more worried. I don't cite this to support this behavior, of course, but to take note of a (sad) fact of life. You have a sanctified view of marriage, but many people have a different and less special view of it.

You'll notice that I steered clear of premarital sex (in my previous post) since it is a complex issue with which Christian communities have very mixed feelings. The power of sex often overpowers the greater ideal of abstinence (until marriage). Look at Sarah Palin's daughter (who comes from a very conservative Christian home)! Her boyfriend married her. So that kind of situation happens too: commitment after pregnancy can and does happen.

As for the quote you highlighted.... If you note he is not making a general sweeping statement, but saying that it may happen.

Yes, but the fact that he highlighted that particular scenario suggests that it is primary in how he thinks about it. If it is an incidental kind of situation, fine, but his "may" scenario suggests a stereotypical model he's following. I thought that a man of the caliber of the Pope would rise above the use of such rhetoric, ignoring other "mays" for the sake of convenience.

It may happen and it does. I would say unqualified that it tends to happen in unmarried couples more so precisely because there isnt that same level of commitment and openness to the consequences that are there in marriage.

The difference between what you say and what the Pope said is: he's making the association of lack of "reverence" for a woman with use of contraception, whereas you are talking about premarital sex in relation to degree of commitment. Those are entirely different things. I would certainly agree with you, but not with the Pope's (flawed) logic (as I noted above). Of course, we agree that the real advantage for marriage is the greater degree of commitment and responsibility of both parents (and in the eyes of the law, social & legal responsibility, especially for the male) to their children. The sad fact, though, is that our societies are changing, and degrees of commitment and responsibility are ever wavering in many marriages. We have various kind of prenuptial and legal agreements that ease a safer exit for either partner (which Churches, not only Catholic, would not welcome).

Now whether the biggest contributing factor is the use of birth control, who is to say, but I do see his point.

That was my beef with the Pope's comment: that he is using birth control and blaming it for ills that have existed even before we had today's methods of birth control. People committed premarital sex since Biblical days (and before). The problem lies with people's attitudes and behavior, not with a piece of rubber.

But I believe much of that is prevented by the commitment and openness to life within a marriage covenant.

The problem is that there has been a tendency to stray away from the sanctity of marriage---not because of contraception or what have you, but because one can be married and less committed and less responsible (judging by our high divorce rates). It's more a question of attitude and faith than whether you want to avoid a pregnancy. The notion and perception of marriage has changed dramatically in today's world. God only knows where it will end up.
Anthony said…
Samuel
I am the one who posted the original quote from Humanae Vitae. There are many answers to the comments you make which are around the internet.
eg. http://catholicinsight.com/online/church/humanae/article_127.shtml
I would say overall that contraception creates the mentality of the 'unwanted child' so when the contraception fails, abortion the next easy step to get rid of the 'unwanted child'. This is the corrosive effect of a contraceptive mentality and the reason that the abortion rate has actually climbed since the pill became popular.

The point in quoting this part of HV was to make the argument that the Islamisation of Europe is happening as a result of contraceptive use (yes even by Catholics, especially by Catholics, whose eternal souls are in danger). It's like a sub-conscious cultural death wish. Associated with this is the fact that many women converts to Islam are attracted to the respect that women receive in Islam, which has been lost in the West as Pope Paul so rightly foresaw. Coupled with the so called Feminist movement (which has actually been a masculisation of women) it has been devastating. Women are the factories of men - to turn off their fertility when necessary and to turn it on again (through IVF, etc) when the man wants a child. Why most women don't see how they are being used like this (and I include members of my own family in this) is beyond me.
Jeff said…
Samuel:

I don't think the consequences argument can EVER absolutely prove anything. But it helps to illuminate a lot.

No, I don't think we have a problem with irresponsible childbirth. I think we have a problem of disconnect between the exercise of sexuality and easy contraception.

You can argue, if you like, that that is related to a mentality an not an act. But the Pope asserts--and I agree with him--that there is ultimately no way to separate the two.

The Pope is merely asserting what used to be common Christian teaching until the 1930s. Nothing new about it. The Catholic Church is the only one to have hung onto it.

I don't see what pedophilia has to do with it. There is an impression that priests are more prone to this than others, but no evidence...in fact evidence in the other direction.

You could just as well say that Christians can't preach peace because they have waged unjust wars or they can't preach Christ because of the number of preachers that were revealed as hypocrites.

The glaring fact of Western Christian Civilization today is that we are not having children. We had best be looking into the reasons why...
Samuel said…
Have I offended papal sensibilities? My apologies to my Catholic brothers in Christ. I don't always disagree with the pope, even ones who felt it necessary to wage a crusade. It is on certain key issues that I think they're out of step and I feel I should express my disapproval of some of their acts, beliefs, and words. Yes, sometimes I can be angry with the pope for saying or doing something, but I don't hate him. As a matter of fact, of all recent popes I think Pope John Paul II was my favorite overall by far (even when I didn't agree with him on certain things). So I hope you don't hate my guts---though you have the right to.

To Anthony.

I would say overall that contraception creates the mentality of the 'unwanted child' so when the contraception fails, abortion the next easy step to get rid of the 'unwanted child'.

They are 'unwanted' in the sense that we don't want more and more births out of wedlock. Plus, they are brought in an environment that is not planned for their proper support, which can end up being to their detriment. That is the sense in which I intended it by 'unwanted.' Of course, when they are born and it's too late, we must do what we can to take care of them (which is the Christian thing to do).

The abortion step is carried out not because of contraception per se but because of the beliefs of the carrier or guardian of the child born. You have examples of Christians who use contraception and mistakenly give birth out of wedlock, but they don't practice abortion but keep and raise the child. But that example does not suit you, so you skipped it and stayed with the negative examples---the examples where we will both disagree with the beliefs of those who opt for willy-nilly abortion. Bottom line: contraception does not 'create' negative mentality, rather it is negative mentality and positive mentality alike that can choose contraception.

Further, the argument that Europe is being 'Islamized' is much too premature to take seriously. It conveniently forgets and ignores the many other minorities in Europe who are growing. You probably missed an earlier thread that showed that the rate of Muslim growth in the UK was comparable to that of the Hindu population (for a 10 year period). (Usually growth rates are higher among poor and less educated.) So why not instead argue that Europe is being Hinduized? However, I will agree that having a propaganda of Islamization is politically helpful in opposing and raising awareness of Islamic growth in Europe.

Associated with this is the fact that many women converts to Islam are attracted to the respect that women receive in Islam, which has been lost in the West as Pope Paul so rightly foresaw.

You mean like when women are treated as second class citizens by an Islamic Sharia law that suppresses them and counts their witness as half that of a man, their being subjected to male relatives, and where they are considered to be intellectually inferior to men? That's the 'respect' they mean, of course. Don't you ever wonder why so many women in Muslim countries are moving to be liberated from Islamic oppression of women? Have you read Irshad Manji? Look at the Iranian women who just can't wait to be freed from Islamic law so that they can live like normal modern women.


==========

To Jeff.

That was the whole point of looking at the consequences: to show that it is far worse having diseases spreading without contraception. Contraception is not only for birth control, but to reduce diseases. Unless you would prefer to have more births out of wedlock along with more STDs. The pope's argument against contraception is a license for the spread of disease (esp. sexual transmitted). That's not a good thing; we don't want that.

But the Pope asserts--and I agree with him--that there is ultimately no way to separate the two.

That's where he's wrong, because contraception is also practiced by Christians---even Catholics!---who ultimately are responsible for the born child in the event of contraceptive misuse. Of course, you will always have people of all beliefs and personality types who will use contraception. But there is nothing about the mere concept and practice of contraception by itself that warrants one to infer people's attitudes.

Believers and non-believers alike use contraception. Contraception is practiced by people of all kinds of beliefs. You can't therefore say that you know what mentality it 'creates.'

I don't see what pedophilia has to do with it. There is an impression that priests are more prone to this than others, but no evidence...

If you read carefully where I brought it up, it should be clear I was using it as an example in extremes (as the pope in HV reasoned in extremes). As for the evidence, apparently you have not been following the news lately, nor even heard the pope's own confession and his urgency to confront the problem of pedophilia among Catholic priests. Please face reality and don't hide from it. It makes us Christians look bad and unrealistic to the world.

The glaring fact of Western Christian Civilization today is that we are not having children. We had best be looking into the reasons why...

How in the world did we then get to TWO BILLION?! The Christian population is growing at an annual rate of between 1.3 to 2 percent. That looks like growth to me.

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