It does not come as any great shock to me that there have been few Bishops or Cardinals for that matter, who have used their recent time in the limelight to articulate and defend the Churches beautiful tradition of rejecting contraception. The issue seems to be framed over and over again as one of religious liberty. While it certainly is an issue of religious liberty, there has been no shortage of attacks on the Churches hierarchy and her teaching. It usually runs something like, "98 % of Catholic women contracept, therefore, the teaching should be abrogated." Let's try that logic somewhere else, 99.9 % of people speed, therefore the laws against speeding should be abrogated or how about 99 % of high school athletes want to take steroids, therefore, we should legalize steroid use for athletes. Sounds like pretty good logic right? Nonsense, we have the game winner. We have the truth.
What is the type of logic? It is the logic of those who do not believe in objective moral truth. They do not accept that the nature of the human person has a proper design and therefore, experiences it's greatest freedom to live and love when it operates within that design. Disagreeing with Church teaching on morals, even if you are in the majority will never cause the teaching to change. Just because a large group of people deem something appropriate does not make it so. Hitler had a pretty big following when he began to systematically eliminate Jews and Christians. Does being the majority change the moral right or wrongness of his actions? The teaching isn't rooted in moral relativism of the faithful. It is rooted in the truth of Jesus Christ as revealed to His Church and protected by it's Magisterium. It is rooted in objectively true moral principles.
Very near as I can tell there are two views on human sexuality and then there is the Churches. The first is pure hedonism. This is the position that sexual choices are based solely on pleasure. This view, that we were built to pleasure ourselves isn't exactly an evolved modern view. It is actually quite old. Anyone remember King Solomon? King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3). The guy burned with lust and that lust turned his heart away from God (1 Kings 11: 4). Is it any wonder why we are living in such a godless time? The idea that the human body can be made utility, is not some brilliant new idea. This is the reason that so many moderns are willing to lie to themselves about contraception and same sex relationships. The objective design of the human person allows no possibility of the union of same sex couples, unless of course you are a hedonist. Unless, of course you view human beings as utility and self pleasure as the barometer for morality.
The second idea is that the body is bad. Yes, sexual intercourse within marriage is necessary for the propagation of the species, but heaven forbid we talk about it. Heaven forbid we see the great gift the body is and embrace the beautiful gift of human sexuality. In fact, it is perhaps the most sacred act in this world. God could have made each act of creation like the first. In other words he could have created each body as well as the soul. He chose not to. God gave human beings a participation in His life giving power. God provides the eternal soul, man provides the body. We work together. Which is the reason that to this day Satan continues to do all that he can to destroy and pervert it.
What does all of this mean? That there is objective truth about the nature of the human person. Our human participation in the creation of new life, is just that a participation. That is why it is called pro-creation. We do not call it creation. In every single act of conception, God is present. His majesty, His glory, and His life giving love. His miraculous and self giving presence, infuse the supernatural life into the body (Gen. 2: 7). The act of contraception seeks to eliminate God from His crowning glory. Not much different than the fall. It seeks to eliminate the natural end from the act. For this reason contraception is always gravely sinful(CCC 2370). Dr. Kreeft in Catholic Christianity says "what contraception deliberately prevents is not an "accident" but an act of God."
History and Continuity in Doctrine
More often than I care to admit, I hear people say things like, God blessed slavery in the Old Testament or even that Solomon's actions in my previous reference were acceptable. Maybe they say something like Jesus didn't say that in the bible. Good bible reading Catholics know that not everything Jesus did and taught is written in scripture (Jn 21: 25). God worked through and continues to work through fallible men to reveal his infallible truth. Using both Tradition and Sacred Scripture to hold everything together.
The teaching on contraception has it's origin in the Old Testament. It begins with God clearly defining what marriage is and commanding that the fruit of marriage, be both a unitive, a one flesh union between the spouses and also procreative or fruitful union (re-read the first three chapters of Gen.). Shortly after the fall we find this little gem:
"Then Judah said to Onan, go into your brother's wife, and perform the duty of a brother in law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother. But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother's wife he spilled the semen on the ground, lest he should give offspring to his brother. And what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord. (Gn 38: 6-10)"
The Talmud generally refers to contraception as the "deadly sin of Onan (Tractate Niddah 13a)." From the very beginning of Christianity the same position was held. It seems the use of "modern" measures to render marital love impotent is not some brand new idea. Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood aren't all that cutting edge. There worldview is old and worn out. It is the worldview of death and deception.
The teaching of the Didache the first catechism, if you will, expressly teaches against contraception. The Didache is dated from 70-110 AD( J. Tixeront, A handbook of Patrology). It refers to abortion and contraception, referring to the latter as magic when it says, "Thou shalt not commit sodomy; thou shalt not commit fornication; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not use magic; thou shalt not use drugs; thou shalt not procure abortion, nor commit infanticide (Didache, II 1-2)." In an anonyomous letter to Diognetus in the first century, It was said of Christians "like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives." The traditional teaching on marriage, fecundity, and contraception, has always been to embrace the unitive and procreative aspects and to oppose contraception.
Spousal Meaning of the Body(The Churches View)
The Churches view of the human body is neither puritanical nor is it hedonistic, rather it is based on the God's revelation that we are made in His image and likeness. It is both human and divine. When God makes us in His image and likeness, He makes us male and female. It is through the two genders which God calls us to marriage and procreation. We can never reduce human sexuality to merely biological endeavor. Man has a soul ordered toward God, therefore, sexuality is the act of a person and is ordered toward the procreation of another person each with an immortal soul. Which makes human sexuality ultimately spiritual. Another reason, is that human sexuality draws man to seek his compliment in the other. Man is not self sufficient. Even when he acts like he is or says he is, he is not. Man is oriented toward communion with another. It is written into the design of his body. Profound commitment, responsibility, and union are the result of properly ordered human sexuality. The last reason, as previously mentioned the body and soul of man enable man to participate in God's work of creation.
Man and woman become mutual self gift to one another in life giving love. Their union and participation in God's design, make their union a physical sign of God's Trinitarian love in the world.
Gaudium Et Spes to Blessed JPII
The Second Vatican Council did not change this understanding or alter it in any way, in fact it held fast to it when it said that marital love must be "based on the nature of the human person and his acts, preserve the full sense of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love. Such a goal cannot be achieved unless the virtue of conjugal chastity is sincerely practiced. Relying on these principles sound of the Church may not undertake methods of birth control which are found blameworthy by the teaching authority of the Church in its unfolding of the divine law.(GS 51)" Blessed John Paul II says: "when couples, by means of recourse to contraception, separate these two meanings that God the Creator has inscribed in the being of man and woman and in the dynamism of their sexual communion, they act as arbiters of the divine plan and they manipulate and degrade human sexuality and with it themselves and their married partner by altering its value of total self giving. Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality." In other words contraception is a lie and it promotes a form of "love" which is not love at all but mere utility. It promotes a way of being in relationship that holds something of self back from our spouse.
What to do?
Now is the time to learn the Churches teaching. The HHS mandate is more than an attack on religious liberty. It is an attack on that which is most holy and sacred. Marital love. You can clearly see how contraception could undermine the holy witness of marriage. It reduces marital love to pure utility, it reduces the other person to mere utility. It sterilizes the act and removes from it, its very essence, which is a supernatural participation in divine love. This didn't happen overnight. We didn't get to this point because of the mandate. Many of us were complicit in the contraceptive mentality. As a result, we have built a culture of division and mistrust rooted in a secular worldview. God is not merely another political party. God's law is divine and it is eternal. It cannot be overthrown because a whole lot of Catholic women contracept. Contraception has continuously been rejected by the Church and that will never change. Now is not the time to continue avoiding the topic. We have been given the floor. President Obama doesn't think we have anything compelling to say on the matter. If we continue to beat the religious liberty drum without taking the time to convey the beautiful truth about marital love, we are acting just like the politicians. Those who prefer their high poll numbers to fidelity to God and His Church. Those days must come to an end. It is because of the silence in the Church on this particular teaching that we are now faced with the HHS mandate. I believe Pope Pius XI said it best and I shall leave you with this final thought "If any confessor or pastor of souls, which may God forbid, lead the faithful entrusted to him into these errors or should at least confirm them by approval or by guilty silence, let him be mindful of the fact that he must render a strict account to God, the Supreme Judge, for the betrayal of his sacred trust, and let him take to himself the words of Christ;: they are blind and leaders of the blind: and if the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit. (Casti Cannubii - Response to acceptance of contraception at the Lambeth Conference)."