Sunday, July 27, 2008

Lucia Humanae Vitae: The Catholic Church and the Pill

Humanae Vitae is most likely one of the the most widely flouted Catholic Church edicts of modern times. In short, more than 80% of Catholics in the West disregard the command to abstain from artificial birth control.

A couple of days ago it was the 40th birthday of Humanae Vitae and contrary to the opinions at the time of it's birth - the teaching is still alive and kicking. And it now has teeth. The last Pope, John Paul II, spent five years hammering out a detailed theology underpinning (among other things) why contraception in intrinsically evil and degrades the human person in God's original plan for man's sexuality.

In a nutshell, when a couple uses artificial contraception, they in effect use the other person for their own sexual gratification. They do not give all of themselves to the other, nor do they receive all of the other - they want only the part that is sexually satisfying, not the part that could impart life to a third person. That degrades both in the very act that is supposed to be one of unrestrained love.

This whole idea that sex has to be open to life in order to be true love is something that human beings struggle with. Especially since new life (ie children) demand so many years of selfless giving on the part of the parents. Why not be selfish and think of our own pleasure instead? Well, why not be selfish full stop? Ultimately, according to Christian theology, we have to lose our own lives in order to gain them. Otherwise our short-term choices lead to long-term consequences, that are no so much a punishment as a natural outcome.

Related Link: The Pope vs. the Pill ~ NY Times

5 comment(s):

Cecilia Tankersley said...

I have to say I do find it strange or inconsistent to say that contraception "degrades the human person ..." or that a couple "use the other person for their own sexual gratification". The Church has no problem with the Rhythm Method, and what about couples who are infertile, or after menopause? Should all sex stop once conception is impossible?

I.M Fletcher said...

The Church has no problem with the Rhythm Method because, although unlikely, it's not impossible that a woman can get pregnant in using it; it doesn't close off artificially the connection between husband and wife or the opportunity to become pregnant.

ZenTiger said...

Should all sex stop once conception is impossible?

The way I understand it, the issue is not sex solely for the sake of procreation, it is as an expression of love - unconditional love that is open to the possibility of life.

Therefore, even if conception is impossible, the Church 'gives the benefit of the doubt' (as it were) to the act of sex with a married couple being also an act of love.

Libertyscott said...

Pardon me for being explicit, but under this grand plan why is it that many 12 year olds are able to breed, and why is it that boys and girls from around that age are "wasting" eggs and sperm on a regular basis? Girls of course do so with regulatiry generally speaking, but it is pretty much a fait accompli that boys will "spill seed" even if "in control" on a regular basis.

What's that about? I know from my perspective why, but I'm curious about what the Catholic Church thinks, mainly because it is often considered to have spread centuries of damnation and guilt to young men about their (perfectly natural) bodies which harm no one.

Lucia Maria said...

Liberty Scott, I'm not quite sure what you are asking. Is the question related to the period of time young people become capable of sexual activity before they are mature enough to handle it? If so, maybe the idea is to learn sexual restraint in a family setting where the parents are able to impart values to the young people so that they know they are not just slaves to their passions.

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