I received a somewhat odd letter from a reader code-named Thomas Binu which I here reprint in full:
This is off-topic, but I couldn’t find a place to email you this directly, hence posting it here. I just happened to visit your blog today, and found it interesting enough to spend most of my free (and some more) time here. I have a question about Catholic position on contraception from a philosophical perspective. (I am a practicing Catholic, btw, just so you know).
Church is against artificial contraception on the argument that the activity of sex is meant for procreation. I get it. But then, I also understand that the Church allows natural family planning. My question is: how morally upright is the position that natural family panning is okay, while the artificial one is not?
Let me expound this a bit more. I understand that there is nothing TECHNICALLY different between a couple consummating their marriage without planning anything vs. they doing it knowing that the sex on that particular day is going to be safe. But, I am not talking about the technicality. I am talking about the MORALITY of that action. By morality, I do not mean the formal morality with respect to a creed written in a Vatican creed. I am talking about the morality of the conscience, morality in front of The One from whom you cannot hide anything, even your mental attitude.
How different is the mindset that I will schedule my love-making activity such that I can be confident that that won’t lead to any child, from the mindset that I will ensure that my love-making won’t lead to any child by using some artificial technique? Morally, I just feel that natural family planning is nothing but a con that I am trying to pull. Its very much like a 15-year old sitting in a church just because his parents forced him to attend the mass, while planning about what porn sites he will visit once he gets back home. There is no sincerity to the principle there. He might as well sit at home and jerk-off.
So, how is the Church justified in advocating for natural family planning if it indeed wholly want to promote the essential principle behind the teaching? Or, has it underplayed the role of love-making in between a couple in binding them together in the family, as in “he will join her”, which is not necessarily the same function as procreation?
This seems to be a question which the Church has answered logically, clearly, and repeatedly. I do not know a way more clearly to recite the teaching of the Catholic Church but to recite it.
Here is a quote from the pertinent section of the Catechism, which I also reprint in full:
The fecundity of marriage
2366 Fecundity is a gift, an end of marriage, for conjugal love naturally tends to be fruitful. A child does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfillment. So the Church, which is “on the side of life,”151 teaches that “it is necessary that each and every marriage act remain ordered per se to the procreation of human life.”152 “This particular doctrine, expounded on numerous occasions by the Magisterium, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act.”153
2367 Called to give life, spouses share in the creative power and fatherhood of God.154 “Married couples should regard it as their proper mission to transmit human life and to educate their children; they should realize that they are thereby cooperating with the love of God the Creator and are, in a certain sense, its interpreters. They will fulfill this duty with a sense of human and Christian responsibility.”155
368 A particular aspect of this responsibility concerns the regulation of procreation. For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood. Moreover, they should conform their behavior to the objective criteria of morality:
- When it is a question of harmonizing married love with the responsible transmission of life, the morality of the behavior does not depend on sincere intention and evaluation of motives alone; but it must be determined by objective criteria, criteria drawn from the nature of the person and his acts, criteria that respect the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love; this is possible only if the virtue of married chastity is practiced with sincerity of heart.156
369 “By safeguarding both these essential aspects, the unitive and the procreative, the conjugal act preserves in its fullness the sense of true mutual love and its orientation toward man’s exalted vocation to parenthood.”157
2370 Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality.158 These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, “every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible” is intrinsically evil:159
- 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. . . . The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle . . . involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.160
My comment: I am not qualified to teach Catholic Catechism, nor am I your father confessor. I called your letter odd because you have other people aside from a random science fiction writer on the internet to whom to direct your question.
The short answer is that the two forms of contraception, artificial and natural, are essentially different. One is using a period of infertility granted by God in His design of the human person which allows us to space births prudently, according to the right reason He placed in our breasts. The other is an attempt to divorce the procreation of the sex act from the recreation of the sex act.
Divorcing the procreation from recreation leads to a society where gay marriage is inevitable, that is, the society we see today. Look around you. Women are sex objects, pornography is universal, families are shattered, bastards are more common than legitimate births, more than half the black babies conceived are killed in their mother’s wombs by allegedly compassionate white Liberals and their murder machine of Planned Parenthood.
That world is not possible without artificial contraception. Natural family planning simply does not form a large enough break between the procreative and the unitive aspects of marriage to have these evil side effects.
As for how you yourself feel, I recommend you ignore your emotions and look at the logic of it, and talk it over with your priest.