If someone had predicted 40 years ago that by the Third Millennium, marriage and family life would be thriving, child abuse eliminated, abortion almost nonexistent, teenage pregnancy a thing of the past, and people in general enjoying a level of contentment and happiness unsurpassed in human history, we would not consider this person a very accurate social forecaster. A meteorologist, who was so mistaken on his predictions, would be unemployed.
On the other hand, if someone 40 years ago had predicted that in the beginning of the Third Millennium, the institution of marriage itself would be weakened as in no other moment in the history of Western civilization, sexual promiscuity and its related health problems would be rampant, abortion would be both legal and common, pornography would become culturally acceptable, and some nations would actually force their citizens to limit family size, we would have to acknowledge this person ’s wisdom and adeptness at recognizing the long-term consequences of social trends.
The argument was made that the widespread use of artificial contraception would result in every child being a wanted child, virtually eliminating child abuse and abortion. It was asserted that easy access for adolescents to contraceptives would rid society of teen pregnancy. Liberated from the repression of sexual activity, caused in part by the fear of pregnancy, advocates of “The Pill” predicted that the mental health of the general population would improve significantly.
On the other hand, Pope Paul VI, in his much-criticized 1968 encyclical letter, “Humanae Vitae” (“Of Human Life”), in the process of re-articulating the church’s teaching on the nature of marriage, identifies many of the inevitable societal consequences resulting from a redefinition of the meaning of sexual intimacy that excludes its life-giving power. He specifically cites: 1) “the general lowering of morality”; 2) an increase in marital infidelity; and 3) the effect on the young, particularly young men, encouraging a disregard for the moral law and the treatment of women as “a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment.”
Pope Paul VI also anticipated China’s One-Child Policy by predicting government policies that would attempt to impose contraception on their citizens. Pope Paul VI also foresaw that the widespread use of the artificial means of contraception would lead to a cultural acceptance of both abortion and pornography.
Was “Humanae Vitae” a desperate effort to present an antiquated morality? Or was it a prophetic statement of the truth and consequences of abandoning our traditional morals? What does the experience of the past 40 years teach us? Think about it!
If you take the time to read Humane Vitae, I think you’ll be surprised by how prophetic it was and how much it just makes sense. I accepted the Church teaching on artificial contraception but didn’t really believe it until I’d read this document. It’s so clear and well thought-out, it’s hard to argue with once you open yourself to its logic.
As as Archbishop Naumann argues in the column excerpted above, it’s hard to ague that contraception has had the effect that was promised: child and spousal abuse are more common, rapes have increased, pornography is everywhere and abortion is rampant. Without the contraception revolution, society would likely be in a much better place.
Hat Tip: The Curt Jester