POPE PAUL VI: RIGHT ON CONTRACEPTION
Confession time. I was brought up
Catholic and attended weekly Mass through my college years, but I became a
Protestant at age 22 in 1963 in part because I did not believe in the
Catholic Church's position on birth control.
As a TIME correspondent in South America, I saw
massive poverty of families living in shacks, in part because they had too
many children. The population of the world was already 3 billion, and the
population bomb seemed explosive. It seemed reasonable for families to plan
the size and spacing of their children. I could see no practical difference
between artificial contraception and natural family planning, except that
NFP was less effective.
When Pope Paul VI issued his encyclical Humanae
Vitae, (Of Human Life) in 1968, many had hoped that he would legalize the
already widespread practice of using ''The Pill.'' When he reaffirmed
traditional Catholic opposition, millions of Catholics flouted his position.
By 1977, a Gallup Poll found that 73 percent of Catholics said one could be
a good Catholic and ignore the Pope. I thought it more honest to be a
The population of the world is now 6 billion, but I
have changed my mind about birth control. In retrospect, Paul's Humanae
Vitae was prophetic in saying that widespread use of contraception would
lead to ''conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality.''
Certainly, that's happened. Since the Pill began to
be sold in 1960, divorces have tripled, out-of-wedlock births jumped from
224,000 to 1.2 million, abortions doubled, and cohabitation soared 10-fold
from 430,000 to 4.2 million.
The Pope predicted man would lose respect for
woman, considering her ''as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no
longer as his respected and beloved companion.'' Surely the ''Playboy
Philosophy'' became widely accepted. Ironically, feminists have attacked the
Catholic Church for its ''alleged disregard to women, but the Church in
Humanae Vitae identified and rejected sexual exploitation of women years
before that message entered the cultural mainstream,'' writes Denver
Archbishop Charles Chaput.
One sad result: 40 percent of U.S. children do not
live in homes with their father. Never has there been such an abandonment by
fathers of the women they impregnated and their kids.
Pope Paul also prophesied that contraception would
mislead human beings into thinking they had unlimited control over their own
bodies. Indeed, the Supreme Court's decision to allow contraceptives to be
sold was cited as justification in a later decision legalizing abortion. Now
scientists are at work to clone human beings, which Congress has refused to
Contraception is constantly trotted out as the
answer to abortion and illegitimacy, with $715 million spent by the Federal
Government on it despite a rise of out-of-wedlock births from 4 to 32
percent of American babies born.
Isn't a generation of failure enough to question
Why has contraception induced lower rates of
Throughout history, some have committed adultery.
''However, a tremendous deterrent from doing so, if not the main deterrent
in most cases, was the fear of pregnancy. Hmm, now what might happen if this
natural deterrent were to be taken away through widespread availability and
cultural acceptance of contraception?'' asks Christopher West, Denver
Archdiocese's Marriage & Family Life Director. Of course, infidelity
Similarly, the fear of pregnancy limited premarital
sex. Take that fear away, millions more will have sex out of wedlock. And
when pregnancy occurs, more resort to abortion or have babies
out-of-wedlock. Those children grow up in fatherless homes, and are more
likely to become sexually promiscuous as they grow older, or criminal
compared to those nurtured in intact homes. The sins of each generation are
compounded in the next.
Even evangelicals are reconsidering their once
solid support of contraception. The Family Research Council just published
an article, ''The Empty Promise of Contraception,'' which notes that Japan
is about to legalize the sale of the Pill. The impact ''may be more ominous
for this traditional and family-oriented country than public officials
realize,'' predicts Teresa Wagner.
One surprising reason: ''The Pill today prevents
even fewer pregnancies than it prevented 30 years ago.'' The Pill used to
suppress ovulation through a heavy dose of a synthetic estrogen. But that
often caused nausea and weight gain. So drug companies reduced estrogen and
added progesterone, which is less effective.
Result? Half of all pregnancies are still
unintended in the U.S. as ''18 percent of couples who use condoms and 12
percent who take the Pill become pregnant within two years,'' reports Family
Planning Perspectives. Half of those seeking abortions were using birth
Pope Paul VI prophesied much of this back in 1968.
Even Catholics should pay attention.
Copyright 1999 Michael J. McManus.
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