Contraception: Why Not?

I've seen a number of people live together before marriage. And, as a matter of fact, cohabitation is another of the real clear signs that a marriage isn't going to work. I heard a statistic the other day, I'll have to check it out, but a priest told me that he did a workshop with his parish on cohabitation and in his studies he discovered that 75% of those who live together before marriage, not just have sex together before marriage, but live together before marriage, get divorced within the first three years. I've seen people who do this. They're twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight years old. They've been living together for two or three years, and everybody's bugging them, "Why don't you get married?" So, they ask each other, "Why don't we get married?" And they figure that they're not fighting that much and they certainly don't want to start all over again and decide they might as well get married. They think "this last two or three years was hard enough and who wants to start all over again and we might just as well get married. It seems to be time." That's not the best path into marriage. So, contraception hasn't made for better marriages.

Has it made for fewer unwanted pregnancies? The statistics on this are wild. In 1960, some 6% of white babies were born out of wedlock. 6%. In 1992, 22% of white babies were born out of wedlock. Almost a four-fold increase, and it's rapidly rising. Rapidly rising. In 1960, some 22%, same figure, 22% of black babies were born out of wedlock. Anybody know the percentage now? 68%. 68% of black babies are born out of wedlock. That took thirty years. I don't think it will take thirty years for the 22% of whites to go up to 68 if we follow down the same path we are currently following. Now, here's my connection: First of all, the world tells us that if we have more and better contraceptives we can solve these problems. There will be fewer unwanted pregnancies. But the point was, in 1960, there were almost no contraceptives available, especially to teenagers. You had to know some tacky gas station somewhere and have a few quarters and that's about the best you could do. But any teenager now can get contraceptives from the guidance counselor, in fact, from some welcome-to-school kits in some schools. We live in a culture in which condoms can be handed out in schools and Bibles can't. And I think that tells you everything you need to know about our society. So, it seems to me that clearly, more and better contraceptives aren't going to help. Teenagers have incredible access to them. But teenagers are just as good at using contraceptives as they are at making their beds and doing their homework and doing their chores, at about the same degree of reliability.

I used to help with a pregnancy help center in South Bend. We would talk with these young girls and we'd ask them, "Did you use a contraceptive," and they would say, "No, no. I wanted to buy a Prince album this month and I had to use my money for that," or, "I didn't like the side effects so I stopped," or, "We broke up and I thought we weren't going to see each other again but he came around again." And they get pregnant and they're surprised. And, of course, we have a million and a half abortions a year. And how did these happen? 50% of women who go to abortion clinics tell us that they're there because of contraceptive failure. 50%. 80% tell us that they are contraceptively experienced, that they know about it and they've used it before but, again, for one reason or another, they've stopped.

But the real point, in my mind, is that contraceptives have launched people on a lifestyle that makes for sex outside of marriage -makes for sex in which babies and bonding are not welcome likelihoods. And when pregnancies occur, disaster strikes. People now say, when they're having sex outside of marriage and they get pregnant, what do they say? They use this wonderful phrase, "I got pregnant by accident." And I always was mystified by this phrase and I would say, "Tell me, how did that happened again?" I know I'm rather naive but I caught on to this some time ago and I know you can't get pregnant by accident. You can get hit by a car by accident, fall off a cliff by accident, but you can't get pregnant by accident. It actually means something's gone right with an act of sexual intercourse, not that something's gone wrong. But because people are using contraceptives, they get pregnant and they're surprised. "My gosh! we got pregnant! We didn't have that in mind. That wasn't a part of this picture. So, we have to do something about it. What'll we have to do? We have to trot down to the abortion clinic."

Now, I'll give you the highest authority of our land, the Supreme Court says so. There's an article out there, which I wrote, on the table you can have for free. It's called, "The Connection between Contraception and Abortion" and I cite Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In that decision (this is not quite verbatim but it's close) it says that: "in several important respects, the decision to use contraceptives is the same as the decision to abort." Or the decision to have an abortion is the same as the decision to contracept. And it goes on to explain. It says that, "For two decades, couples have based their intimate relationships on the availability of abortion should contraceptives fail." Now in this whole Supreme Court decision, which is on abortion, there is not one mention of the humanity of the unborn child, not one mention of whether the fetus was a person or not. It's not even dismissed as a question. It's not even considered. But it does say we must have abortions because we have contraceptives. It's a necessity. For two decades, couples have counted on it should their contraceptives fail. The Supreme Court says so.

Now, again, I think in the 60's, it was not a stupid expectation that contraceptives would make for better marriages, fewer unwanted pregnancies, fewer abortions, but I think the cultural evidence today shows absolutely the contrary. And it's very hard for us to see because, again, our culture, our president, his cabinet tell us that more and better contraceptives and more and greater access to abortion is absolutely necessary in this society, it's a good thing.

The church said otherwise. As I told you, Pope Paul VI didn't predict this in great detail, but he certainly predicted the broad strokes of what happened. And you might say, "How did he see it when the rest of us couldn't? How did he see it? What did he know that we didn't know?" Well, he had a whole history of the church behind him, some two thousand years. And some of us, of course, believe he had the guidance of the Holy Spirit and he couldn't miss because he wasn't using human wisdom here. Human wisdom showed something quite different and I don't think that human wisdom was implausible, but it's turned out, I think, to be dead wrong.

What did he know? Well the church has always based it's teachings, not on something private to Catholics, but on what is known as natural law. And, I'm going to give you about a three minute course here on natural law. Natural law says that if you want things to prosper, you have to use them in accord with their nature. If you want things to prosper, you have to live in accord with the reality or the nature of the things you are using. If you want to grow good tomatoes, you have to treat tomato plants in accord with their nature. You have to give them sunshine and water and fertilizer and a good soil. And if you want your car to run you have to put oil and gasoline in it. You can't put your tomato plant in the closet and expect it to grow good tomatoes. You can't refuse to water it and expect it to grow good tomatoes. You can't put molasses in your car and expect it to run. The Church has said human sexuality has a certain nature and unless you live in accord with that nature, chaos will result. You won't get your tomato plants and you won't get from here to Cleveland. It won't work if you don't live in accord with the nature. The Church says that its teaching on sexuality is not revealed wisdom. It is something that man can discover by the basis of his own reason if his understanding is not obscured by his culture -- and ours is an obscuring culture.

What is the purpose and meaning and nature of sexual intercourse? It seems to me to be quite clear. It's for two things. It's for babies and it's for bonding. And that's what happens when you have sexual intercourse - you have babies and you bond. My view is, if you don't want to have babies and you don't want to bond, then you shouldn't be having sexual intercourse. My view is that the babies and bonding that comes with sexual intercourse belong only within marriage. I would love some "rap group" to put together a little song for me on this. "If you don't want babies and bonding you shouldn't be having sex." "You shouldn't be having sex if you're not married, because that's where babies and bonding are appropriate." We have a whole culture that says that having sex, and having babies and making bonds, are two different things; absolutely two different things. Today one can say, "I want to have lunch with you, I want to play tennis with you, I want to go to the movies with you, and I want to have sex with you." No big deal. It's the contraceptive that allows us to do this. Again, if a woman finds herself pregnant, she's shocked. If two individuals find themselves attached to each other, they're shocked. We all know all these really wonderful women who seem to be attached to these terrible men. "How does this happen?" She can't let him go. She's engaging in sex with him - that's bonding.

So, our society has this view that these three things -- sex, babies, and bonding, are separate and the Church says, "No, they're together." Now some people want to say, "Well, no, no, no. You've left something out here. Clearly, sex is for pleasure. And those who are having sex, they're doing what sex is for; they're having pleasure. And I'll say, "No, no, no. You've missed the point." There are lots of things that have pleasure attached to them. Pleasure is not the purpose; pleasure is the motive; pleasure is the consequence; but it's not the purpose. As a matter of fact, God attached pleasure to the things that he really wants us to do, that are necessary for our survival and for our happiness. So, it's pleasurable to eat and it's pleasurable to drink and it's pleasurable to sleep and it's pleasurable to exercise and it's pleasurable to have sexual intercourse. It's pleasurable. That's not the purpose. That's not the reason we eat though some of us do. That's not he reason we sleep though some of us do. That's not the real purpose for these acts. They're restorative in many ways. They're necessary for our survival. So, God attached pleasure to everything he wanted us to do for, not our salvation, so much, as just our well-being. But we have to do it at the right time, and the right place, in the right manner, with the right person, etc.,etc. - in the right way. Sure, eating is pleasurable, but there are limits to what you should be eating. Sexual intercourse is pleasurable, but there are limits to what you should be doing, and you have to seek that pleasure in accord with the nature and reality of what you're dealing with.

Now in many ways the modern world is completely at odds with the Church in their thinking. We live in a culture in which human life is considered of absolutely insignificant value. Otherwise we would not be able to have abortion clinics. My students, at the University of Dallas, are wonderful students. It's a good Catholic school. We get wonderful students. But they are as confused as the rest of the world about things. They absorb, as we all do -- everyone of us absorbs -- the views of our culture. I was teaching on Darwin one day and I was making the point that humans are radically different from animals. We may share common characteristics, but there are things we can do that are so far out of the reach of animals that it can't even be compared. And afterwards, this one young girl came up to me, she said, "Professor Smith, I don't see why you're so obsessed with the differences between human beings and animals. They're just not really all that different." And I said, "All right. Let me try to help you see this." So, I did a kind-of "Far Side" thing for her. I said, "Have you ever gone home and found your dog painting the ceiling of his doghouse like the Sistine Chapel?" She said, "No. I've never seen that." "Have you ever caught your cat pounding out a Mozart sonata?" She said, "No. Never seen that." I said, "You know, I bet you've never seen pigs playing rugby and that's at least a minimal human activity." She said, "No. I've never seen that," and I said, "Think about it for a minute." I said, "Why do you think they don't do this?" And she said, "Because they're just not interested, otherwise they would. I mean, surely they could do these things if they were interested." She's with our society on this. This is what we think - that there's no big differences between human beings and animals. We have a whole animal rights movement to "Save the Baby Whales", but human beings can be taken into an abortion clinic and terminated.

Now, it's on this point of the value of human life that you can see the huge difference between the Catholic Church and the rest of the world. Or Christians and the rest of the world. Or most religious traditions and the rest of the world. Because we see every human life as a new soul, as a new soul that God has brought into this world, that's meant to exist with God for an eternity. You see, we don't really see human life as our culture does. Our culture now thinks, of course, people can have babies. That's OK. We somehow have this primitive need to reproduce ourselves, so it's alright to have two. Certainly, we can understand you wanting your boy and your girl. We understand that. But you have more than two, and everyone begins to look a little bit suspiciously at you. What are you doing? We now think of babies, really, as environmental hazards - as little threats to the rain forest. I mean, my friends have told me they're pregnant with their third child and the receptionist will say, "Mrs. so-and-so, your pregnancy test is positive. Do you plan to continue this pregnancy?" Do you plan to continue this pregnancy? Or, "Mrs. so-and-so, would you like to schedule a tubal this time because surely you and your husband aren't going to have more than three." Or, "Here's a stack of pamphlets (that you get when delivering your third) on different contraceptives because obviously you and your husband don't know what you're doing. You need some help here." And those who have a third child or more will tell you that in elevators, or in doctor's offices, or in grocery stores, people will approach them and say the most astonishing things: "Don't you and your husband know how to control yourselves?" "Lady, are these all yours?" Or, how many are you going to have?" And they're just astonished that anybody would want more than two children. You are allowed to have three if your first two are girls or first two are boys because obviously you want your boy and girl, but more than three - it's just out of sight in our society.

But, of course, the Christian view is not this. The Christian view is that the whole universe actually exists for us. It's our support system. We're supposed to be here. God made the universe for human life. And he wants souls. He wants lots of them. "Go forth and multiply and fill the face of the earth." Go forth and multiply and fill the face of the earth. Now, a little piece of evidence for this is that most women will tell you that their greatest sexual desires are when they're ovulating. Just like God giving you a shove in the back. Go for it. This is what we want here - Nature's way. God made nature.

Now, this is the most amazing thing when you think about it. Sperm, this little sperm, it does not have an immortal soul. The little sperm does not have an immortal soul. It has a short and sometimes very happy life, but it does not have an immortal soul. And the ovum, you see, it does not have an immortal soul. It can have a short and happy life, but it doesn't have an immortal soul. And when the two come together, where does that immortal soul come from? The sperm doesn't carry it. The egg doesn't carry it. Where does it come from? It comes from a new act of creation by God. In each act of conception, there needs to be a new act of creation by God. One of my priest friends says that "When a new human life is created, the whole universe is changed because something has come into existence which did not exist before and will exist forever." It's just like when God made the whole universe, he made something from nothing. And now, he's made a new soul from nothing. It didn't exist. There's not a whole group of souls out there that are sort of waiting around for a landing place. God actually performs a new act of creation. So, when male and female participate in the sexual act, they have opened up this arena which God has designed for bringing forth new human life. And when they contracept, they are slamming that door in God's face. They're saying, "We want to enjoy this pleasurable act that you gave us, but we do not want to let you perform your creative act." Now, I'm not saying that couples who are contracepting, are conscious that this is what they're doing. But, this is what the act itself means. It's much like drinking a little bit of poison in your orange juice. You might not know it's there, but it will have its effect on you. You're not intentionally doing that, but that's what the act itself means.

So, in the first place, the church objects to contraception because it refuses to let God perform his creative act in the arena in which he chose to do it. You know, God could have created new human life in different ways. In fact, he has before. I'm afraid I'm going to do a little male bashing here, but you're all used to it, so you can take it. You know, God did create new human life before in different ways. He made the first man, the first male, out of mud. And he made the first female out of the rib of a rational creature. Now, this explains a lot when you think about it. One male, after one of my talks, came up to me and he said, "Yes, certainly. It explains a lot". He said, "It explains why I'm treated like dirt a lot." So, anyway, our society has a great disregard for the value of human life. We do not understand what a great gift it is to participate in this act with God. God has chosen spouses as his vehicle for bringing forth new human life and new human life is precisely what he wants in this universe. As a matter of fact, every one of us should be putting forward most of our efforts, all of our efforts, to getting ourselves to heaven and helping others. That's our job. And, spouses play a major role in this by bringing forth that new human life that all of us are meant to be forming. It's an amazing task that God has given us. It's not something to be dallied with. It's not something that should be happening as an accident. Having sex, having babies, as an accident is not in God's plan. Having babies is meant to be within the loving act of spouses because God wants the parents to love the children in the same way in which he loves all of us, which means in a committed and unconditional way. God loves us in a committed and unconditional way and he wants parents that are committed to each other for a lifetime relationship who are going to love these children in an unconditional way. And our society can't begin to see that. Babies are just options, burdens, environmental hazards, something to be taken down to the abortion clinic and terminated.

Now, along with our disregard for the value of human life, there is an enormous disregard for fertility. We don't have any high estimation of fertility. Contraceptives are manifestly related to a hostility to fertility. Think about the word contraception. It means "against the beginning", against the beginning of a new life, and what makes a new life possible is fertility. So, we talk about "the pill." It's one of my favorite words - the pill. When do you take a pill? You take a pill when your sick. But pregnancy is not a disease and fertility is not a disease. Fertility is a healthy condition in an adult person. It's those who are infertile who need assistance in becoming fertile. They are the ones who need the medication. Fertility is a perfectly healthy condition. I would like to challenge doctors in this way, and anyone else who wants to straighten me out afterwards, you're welcome to have a shot at it. But when I think of a fifteen year old boy who goes into the doctors office and says, "Doctor, you know, I want to get the girls. I want the girls," he says. "And the way to get the girls is to have big muscles. So, would you please give me some steroids?" Any doctor worth his salt will say, "Son, get out of here. Join the wrestling team. Lift weights. Do push-ups. I'm not going to give you steroids. They're bad for you. They could ruin you. I'm not giving you steroids." But, a fifteen year old girl trots into a doctor's office and says, "Doctor, I want to have sexual intercourse with my boyfriend or boyfriends." And the doctor says, "I'll write you a prescription." It's a whole lot worse for her health psychologically and physically in the long run, to be launched on the kind of lifestyle that a contraceptive launches her on than that steroid is for the young man and I want to know what's going on here. Why has our culture told us that this makes sense? Why has our culture told us that this is a sensible thing for a doctor to do?

There's a wonderful book out by Dr. Ellen Grant called The Bitter Pill. She was very much in on distributing contraceptives in the 60's in London, but she saw woman after woman coming in with different pathologies that she found were pill related--high blood pressure, blood clots, cysts in the breast, all sorts of things. So, she said, "I'm not going to prescribe these anymore." She looked into this and she discovered, that when they were first testing for the pill, they were trying to find a male contraceptive and a female contraceptive pill. And in the first study group of males, they found that there was some slight shrinkage of the testicles of one male, so they stopped all testing of the male contraceptive pill. You might notice that there is no such thing. In the first study group of females, three females died and they just readjusted the dosage. Now, I don't know what that tells you, but it tells me that there's something sinister going on here. Women are still dying from the pill.

If you look at the insert in any set of pills, you can get this from a pharmacist if you can't find it elsewhere, it says such things as the pill will cause blood clots, high blood pressure, heart disease, greater increase of some kinds of cancer, infertility. Now, these are very small percentages where this happens, but there are some sixteen million women in the United States on the pill. Sixteen million. And even a very small percentage is still a very large number of women. Not to mention the day by day side effects. These always fascinate me. Most women, in fact 50% of women who start on the pill, stop within the first year because of unpleasant side effects. So, these side effects are really largely those of the sixteen million who continue, so you can imagine how bad they must be for the 50% who stop. But, what are they? Most women complain of increased irritability, increased propensity to depression, weight gain, and a reduced libido. Now, I don't know about the rest of you women, but I've been looking for a pill that will make me more irritable, more depressed, help me gain weight, and reduce my libido so I can have sex. And I'm sure all the men here would like the woman he's dealing with to be more irritable, more depressed, gain weight more easily, and have a reduced libido, don't you? Now, why does the pill do this to a woman? Why does it do this to a woman? Well, the fact is that the pill makes a woman's body think it's pregnant. It gives it hormones that are there the first couple months of pregnancy. And women in the first couple months of pregnancy get irritable, depressed, gain weight, and have a reduced libido. And women are in this condition when they're on the pill, for week after week, month after month, year after year. It's an astonishing thing.

Now, I haven't really told you the worst reality about the pill which really that is that it's an abortifacient. I've been talking about it as though it were a contraceptive, but it also works as an abortifacient. At least it says so in the insert that's in with the pill. It says that it works in three different ways: One is it stops ovulation, and again, that's clear enough. If it makes your body think it's pregnant, the body will not ovulate because when you're pregnant, you can't get pregnant. When you're pregnant you don't ovulate because you have a new baby growing inside of you and there's no reason to ovulate. Or if that doesn't work, there may be breakthrough ovulation, and no woman knows when that's happening in her body. Women have the most complex hormonal system, as you know. If you've ever looked at the chart of a female hormonal system, there's three major ones as far as their reproductive system is concerned. And they go up and down like peaks and valleys and they crisscross. And I showed this to one of my friends and she said, "You know, I've never felt like the same person from day to day and now I see that I'm not. I'm dealing with a whole new chemical system every day." And as you women know, you wake up in the morning and say, "Gee. Am I going to be the sweetest person in the world today or am I going to be the meanest person in the world today? How do I know? Let me see how I feel after my coffee." And it mostly has to do with your hormones. You know the male hormonal system, it's just wonderful. You know how much fluctuation there is in that? There's two of them. Straight line, all month long. This guy seems steady day by day, same guy yesterday, today and tomorrow, and you don't know who you are yesterday, today and tomorrow. There's explanations for that. They're called hormones.

A woman doesn't know month by month, how her hormones are acting, whether she's not ovulating when she's on the pill or if there's breakthrough ovulation. The pill can change the 'viscosity' of the mucus. There's a certain mucus that helps the sperm get to the egg and a certain mucus that prohibits the sperm from getting to the egg. The pill sometimes changes the mucus. Or, it will prevent the nidation of the fertilized ovum. That means, the fertilized ovum, new little human being, working down the fallopian tube, try to implant itself in it's mother's uterine wall but fails to nest. Nidation. The pill prohibits that and then the uterus sluffs off the new fertilized ovum. A woman doesn't know how the pill is working in her system. Norplant works as an abortifacient, the IUD and Depo-Provera do as well.

And think of the other forms of contraception, true contraceptives, the barrier methods. It's a wonderful word. I want to make love to you, but I've got to get my barrier in place. Sounds a bit like making war not making love. I have to go get my spermicide. Spermicide means kill the sperm. I want to make love to you, but I'm going to kill any sperm that come my way. There's something hostile in that act, but I claim that contraception is fundamentally hostile especially to a female's fertility. Because, you know, it's the males who can have sex and not get pregnant. So, what the pill does and contraceptives do is make a female like a creature who can have sex and not get pregnant. But, that's not what we are. And it's not a great burden and a great defect to be a person who can have sex and get pregnant. That happens to be a great gift. But, we treat it as though it were a great deficit something that needs medication, devices, etc.

So, for now I've given you two reasons why the church teaches that contraception is wrong. One is that it locks God out of his procreative act. The other is that it treats a natural gift of life and fertility as if these were not gifts, as if they were burdens and defects. The third reason is John Paul II's observation that contraception violates not only the procreative meaning of the sexual act, but also the unitive meaning of the sexual act. It prevents not only babies, but it also prevents bonding.

I'll give you another Adam and Eve joke just to lighten you up a bit here. Adam and God are in the garden. They're having a little conversation and Adam says to God, he says, "God, I'd like to thank you for this creature Eve you made for me," he says. "She's just wonderful." He says, "Thank you a lot." God says, "Your welcome, Adam." Adam says, "But God, I do have a complaint." God says, "Alright Adam, what's your complaint?" He said, "Well, why did you have to make her so beautiful?" "You know she's so beautiful that I think about her all the time, I get distracted, I can't get my work done." "You didn't have to make her so beautiful. Why did you make her so beautiful?" And God says, "Well Adam, I not only wanted you to have a helpmate," he said, "I wanted you to have someone to love and you'd be happy." And Adam says, "Well, gee. How about it. Thank you, God. That's very thoughtful." He then said, "But, I do have another complaint." And God said, "All right Adam. What's your second complaint?" Adam says, "Well, God," he said, "Why did you have to make her so dumb?" He said, "You know, she's just so dumb, she doesn't make any sense, she's irrational, you talk to her and I don't know what she's up to. One day I'm the greatest guy in the universe, the next I'm the worst guy in the universe." He said, "Why did you have to make her so dumb?" And God says, "Well, Adam, I not only wanted you to love her, I wanted her to love you."

Sorry guys. But, you know, it cuts both ways. That one cuts both ways. But isn't that the point, that God made male and female to love each other, to have babies, and to bond?

Well, let's think about how violating the procreative meaning of the sexual act is also violating the bonding meaning of the sexual act.

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