Catholics and Contraception

When I was in 4th grade CCD class ("CCD class":  catechism class for little ones - to teach the basics of the faith, if you don't attend a Catholic school), my volunteer teacher was trying to show us how to pray the Rosary.  The Rosary is one of the most basic, fundamental of Catholic prayers.  EVERYONE - even non-Catholics - at least recognizes a Rosary, even if you don't know how to pray it.

As the teacher started the lesson, I got puzzled.  I raised my hand: "That's not right.".  My teacher, in a sigh of relief, said, "Do you know how?  Here, show us" and I did.  I was 9 years old.

Why do I share this?  Because it illustrates the problem of Catholic catechesis:  we have several generations of Catholics who just don't know their Faith.  How sad.

The problem, though, isn't that 30 year olds don't know how to pray the Rosary (although that's a problem);  it's that a majority of Catholics use contraception, and don't really have any idea why.  It's just a cultural thing:  you have 2.3 kids and that's it.  They don't understand why the Church teaches what it does about contraception, or that it is part and parcel of an entire, universal and complete understanding of human sexuality and God's hope and promise for us.  They have some false notion that the Church (in her stodgy-can't-keep-up-with-the-times-busy-body-in-the-bedroom way) wants everyone to pop out as many babies as humanly possible, with mom perpetually barefoot, pregnant, nursing and happily humming while folding diapers.

Even worse, those who aren't Catholic can't figure out why this is a BIG DEAL.  They have never take the time to truly engage Church teaching, and look at what we Catholics are called to live.

Look, I'm not gonna go over the Church's entire teaching about sexuality, procreation and birth control here.  If you wanna debate about, at least do us the favor of learning what the Church ACTUALLY  teaches.  Read Humanae Vitae (that's Pope Paul VI foundational teaching on birth control).  Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church (especially para. 2370 and on). 

After 9/11, many people took the time to read the Qu'ran, to talk with American Muslims who were grounded in the faith, and to educate themselves about Islam. 

If you disagree with the Church on contraception, or just can't figure out what the big deal is, ask yourself:  "Do I even know what I'm talking about?  Do I have even the smallest clue as to what the Catholic Church actually teaches in this regard?"  If you believe yourself to be under-educated, then maybe it would behoove you to learn.


  1. Well, no. It's not true that all critics of the teachings on birth control haven't read, or don't understand, what the church published in 1968. It's that, having read it, we think it is simply wrong.

  2. What is it that you believe to be wrong, specifically?

  3. My response was to your column. Your point was that people who disagree with the teaching haven't read Humanae Vitae. That isn't necessarily true: as you know, many of those who read it in 1968, including Catholic bishops, disagreed very strongly. Most of the bishops of (I've forgotten how many exactly, but perhaps you remember) Europe and North America signed a letter of strong disagreement. Cardinal Cushing of Boston instructed the priests of every parish in Massachusetts that they were forbidden to deny the sacraments to women who used birth control. And as you know from studying Catholic church history, more than 90% of the lay advisors and 80% of the College of Cardinals advised the Pope to accept the Pill. The position published in Humanae Vitae was that of the minority and the Pope. In other words, it's possible to have read it and disagree with it; it's even possible to have participated in the writing of it, as the College of Cardinals did, and disagree with it. Your column seemed to say otherwise, and I directed my response to that specific point.
    I am not tempted to discuss the substance of the birth control ban with you because you already know, I'm sure, what critics of that teaching are going to say, just as I know, more or less, what proponents of the policy are going to say. We aren't going to sound very original on either side of that discussion, and we aren't going to change each other's views. The broader issue has been debated since 1968, and Catholics continue to disagree.

  4. Then, I shall not comment further, except to say "thank you" for your civility. It is much appreciated.

  5. Its because Catholics refuse to be subservient.

    The campus minister at a local HS and i got talk about HHS and how wrong it is. And i was remind of someone that said--you know why there arent big Catholic Families anymore right, its cause most Catholics use BC. I replied--you know why Catholic divorce is up...its because of BC.

  6. I think it is arrogant to assume that Catholic families are smaller because "all of us" are using artificial birth control. In the past 30 years, the science behind Natural Family Planning has made it a very accurate and reliable way to plan pregnancies. Catholics are like everybody else: we feel the pinch of the economy, and many Catholics choose to have one parent home with children, rather than working. That may mean a smaller family than 40 or 50 years ago.


I love comments, even if you don't agree, but please don't leave anonymous posts. A well-mannered reader leaves a name!

Off In the Weeds No More

As promised, I said I'd address why I hadn't been posting much. Part of me wants to say I have nothing to write, but that is the ...