Archive for the ‘Christian Living’ Category

 

What”s the Big Deal About Same-Sex Marriage?

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

When my daughter Virginia was younger, she and I had a conversation concerning girls’ names, during which time she commented that Virginia is a very common name. I said, “No, it isn’t honey,” to which she replied, “Yes it is, I hear it all the time.”

Obviously our viewpoint, on matters of greater or lesser signifance, is shaped by our personal perspective and the information that is available to us. When it comes to homosexuality, we find ourselves frequently surrounded by propaganda, societal pressures, and misinformation. We”re being pushed to lighten up on a weighty matter, to tolerate the intolerable, to accept the unacceptable. We naturally want to push back, but how we do so matters greatly. [more]

Over a half-century ago Alfred Kinsey estimated that 10% of the population is homosexual. That percentage has long since been discredited. The actual percentage is closer to 2%, and maybe much less than that in our own experience if we’re not part of the “gay subculture.”

This presents a real challenge for us to avoid “us” and “them” stereotypes, as it”s easy to stereotype people who are far removed from our own experience. I remember discussing homosexuality on the Internet a couple months ago, and a gay activist kept saying “you people,” lumping me in with a wide range of people who opposed his viewpoint, including some people with whom I personally disagree. I found that expression very off-putting, and I can’t help but think that that expression–and even more the attitude that underlies the expression–is at least as off-putting when the shoe is on the other foot.

Truth and charity form opposite sides of the same coin, and so it’s crucial to be ever mindful of the individual person, even as we discuss homosexuality on a broad, societal level. Empathy skills tend to get us farther than biting rhetoric.

At the same time, we cannot afford to abandon the playing field out of a false compassion, indifference, or even fear.  Let’s be clear: Same-sex marriage poses a serious threat to the very fabric of our society. For example, writing for Out Magazine, a leading voice in the gay community, Michaelangelo Signorile comments:

“The trick is, gay leaders and pundits must stop watering the issue down–’this is simply about equality for gay couples’–and offer same-sex marriage for what it is: an opportunity to reconstruct a traditionally homophobic institution by bringing it to our more equitable queer value system, . . . a chance to wholly transform the definition of family in American culture. . . . Our gay leaders must acknowledge that gay marriage is just as radical and transformative as the religious Right contends it is.”

Similarly, Paul Ettelbrick, professor of law at NYU and Columbia, writes:

“Being queer is more than setting up house, sleeping with a person of the same gender, and seeking state approval for doing so. . . . Being queer means pushing the parameters of sex, sexuality, and family, and in the process transforming the very fabric of society.”

So same-sex marriage is a big deal. We need to bring our “A game”–intellectually, pastorally, and spiritually–if we’re serious about defending traditional marriage.

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Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

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What Are the Disciples Doing?

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Today”s Gospel at Mass was the familiar episode from the opening verses of Matthew 12, where Christ was asked why His disciples were picking heads of grain on the sabbath. There are many important dimensions to this reading, including the authority of Christ as “Lord of the sabbath” (verse 8), who represents something “greater than the Temple.”

But something else really struck me this morning. Think about it: The Pharisees confronted Jesus (with implied criticism, if not outright rejection) based on what they saw His followers doing. They said, “See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful . . .” (verse 2).  The disciples were hungry and started picking the heads of grain. As Jesus went on to explain in this “teachable moment,” there was nothing wrong with this.

Yet, the point remains that in every generation people form judgments about Christ and about His Church based on what they see the disciples (us!) doing. [more]Of course in many cases we may give a good “witness,” not only in word, but also through actions rooted in charity. Other times, though, we may give a negative witness. When we sin, we not only wound our own relationship with God, but we also make it harder for others to turn to the Lord.

Or, for those who are already believers, our bad example makes it easier for them to turn away from the Lord. 

We don”t fully understand the gravity of the word “scandal.” We tend to think that scandal simply means a public, perhaps newsworthy sin. Well, that might be part of it, but it goes much deeper. Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. It”s nothing short of being an accomplice to spiritual murder. Check out Catechism, nos. 2284-87, 2326 for its treatment of scandal under the fifth commandment (“Thou shall not kill”).

And we all know what Jesus has to say about those who would lead His little ones astray (see Matthew 18:6).

So today, while always striving to follow Jesus, who judges hearts, not appearances, let”s be mindful of the importance–for great good but also possibly for ill–of the example we give to others.  

Last Monday”s Gospel

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

I”ve been in Chicago for my brother Bob”s funeral, so I haven”t had a chance to post for the past couple days. Please remember my brother, one of the last surviving members of the U.S.S. Saratoga, in your prayers.

Three things jumped out at me in Monday’s Gospel, which was taken from the conclusion of chapter 10 of St. Matthew’s Gospel. I thought I would offer a a few things that came to mind as I heard this Gospel anew.

(1) God’s sense of humor.

This week marks the 20th anniversary of my becoming engaged to Maureen, so I find it very amusing that in Monday’s Gospel Our Lord would say, “I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set . . . a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

A little piece of Suprenant family trivia: I actually was waiting for the next Marian feast day to propose, which was July 16th, Our Lady of Mount Carmel. However, that feast fell on a Monday that year, so I proposed the preceding Saturday, July 14th. (Hey, if the Church can move the Ascension to Sunday . . .) [more]

And, joking aside, my wife’s care for my mother in her old age and infirmity up until her death last year was most edifying to me and a tremendous witness for our children.

(2) The lost life.

Our Lord gives us the paradox that if we truly want to be happy, if we truly want to live, then we will lose our lives for His sake. In this teaching we find, among other things, a wonderful catechesis on the deadly sin of greed (aka avarice, covetousness), which is a disordered love of getting and possessing.

Greed involves a failure to trust in Our Heavenly Father’s goodness, so we seek security in worldly realities, rather than in God alone. But a security built on worldly realities is a security built on sand, not solid rock. Or, as yesterday’s saint, Blessed Kateri, might say: “You can’t Tekakwitha when you die.” (Sorry about that!)

(3) The prophet’s reward. 

We also hear in today’s Gospel that whoever hears the Apostles (and thus their successors) hears Christ Himself, which is a commonly cited biblical support for the perennial teaching regarding the apostolicity of the Church and all that entails. But there’s more here. When we support the Church and her leaders, we are supporting Christ Himself, and when we support the work of our bishops, missionaries, and the like, we share in their “reward.” In other words, just as formal cooperation with sin makes us guilty for the sin, so also such formal cooperation with the mission of the Church fully makes us partners in the “new evangelization.”

Catholicism “Lite”: Less Fulfilling?

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Fifteen years ago, while editing Lay Witness magazine, we were creating an ad for the (then) new Catechism of the Catholic Church, opposing it to a fictitious “Catechism ”Lite.”” You know what I”m talking about: only half the commandments of the regular Catechism, and one-third the doctrines.

Over the past couple decades we”ve seen countless variations of this humorous (and, to our sorrow, often accurate) description of an approach to Catholic faith and life that is watered down, minimalistic, and largely uninspiring. In fact, we might say “Catechism lite” or “Catholicism lite” and not have to complete the thought. [more]

At the same time, I”ve found that while most practicing Catholics would take the “Catechism” over “Catechism lite” in theory, the real-life situation is often quite different. Those who want to believe, celebrate, and live the Catholic faith in its fullness are labelled, sometimes pejoratively, as “conservatives.”

I realize this is a game played largely by dissident Catholics who are trying to legitimize their own brand of Catholicism or political agenda. Yet not only do political terms like “conservative” and ”liberal” not fit in Church discussions (really they”re only alienating stereotypes), but there’2012-04-24 18:35:51′s something else: Calling the full embrace of the Catholic faith “conservative” makes it seem as though it”s only one of a spectrum of equally acceptable ways of being Catholic.

In fact, it suggests that the goal would be somewhere between the extremes of “conservative” and “liberal.” Let”s split the difference and go with eight of the ten commandments (I think many would suggest the 6th and 9th for exclusion!) and three-fourths of the doctrines. For them, that may not be “Catholic lite,” but surely Catholic “enough.”  

Obviously this is a big challenge that I can”t fully address in one brief blog post. But I do want us to think about other ways we can express the progression from a nominal or dissident form of dabbling in the Catholic faith to a full commitment to all that the Church proposes for belief.

The models I”ve thought of most recently don”t quite “fit” for one reason or another–I guess that”s true of most analogies–but I thought I would offer them for your consideration.

When it comes to coffee, perhaps the proverbial “Catechism lite” would be decaf, and those who don”t want to be too ”extreme” might go for the caff-lite. Perhaps the “fullness” would be a triple-shot of espresso from the Mystic Monks!

Or, when it comes to milk, we have different watered down versions that we gradually get used to (skim, 1%, 2%, etc.), or perhaps we”ll add chocolate or even ice cream to make it all more palatable. While whole, unadulterated milk may not be goal when it comes to dairy-based beverages, we do want the whole, unadulterated faith if Christ is truly the Lord of our lives. 

With apologies to the milk intolerant, we might then say that soy milk would represent the false forms of faith and spirituality that pass themselves off as Catholic, but really aren”t, just as soy milk isn”t really “milk.” While there are good reasons for people to choose alternatives to dairy, there is no good reason to choose alternatives to Christ and the fullness of the Catholic faith proclaimed by the Church.

To take it a step further, we might say that the saints are the “cream” of the crop!

What images can you think of? Whatever they may be, the fullness of the faith, what St. Paul called the “full stature” of Christ (see Ephesians 4:13 and surrounding verses), must always be the goal for all.  

Leaping to Action

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Like St. Matthew’s Gospel, each and every Mass ends with a commissioning, as we’re sent to bring the light of Christ to all the world. We’re not supposed to keep our faith to ourselves or under a bushel basket, but instead it is given to us so we can give it away. Faith without words, without actions, is dead (cf. Jas. 2:17). As Archbishop Chaput says, it’s not an accident that the book of the Bible is called “Acts of the Apostles” and not “Pious Sentiments of the Apostles” or “Good Intentions of the Apostles.” Our faith impels us to act for, as recent popes have stressed, the Church by her nature is missionary.

I like to use the following riddle with my children: Three frogs are sitting on a log. Two of them decide to jump into the water. How many are left on the log? [more]

The answer, of course, is three, because there’s a huge difference between deciding to jump and actually jumping. Good actions come from good intentions, but are not their necessary consequence. Sometimes my kids will very sincerely tell me they’ll clean their room or be attentive at Mass, but something is lost in the execution. At that point, I tell them to be “wet frogs,” and they finally begin to put their good intentions into action.

Jesus warns all His disciples, both through parables and explicit exhortations, that one doesn’t dabble in Christianity. If we’re truly with Him and His Church, we must jump off the log and bear witness to Him in word and action.

One management principle that has a significant application to the spiritual life is distinguishing outcomes (which are out of our control) from behaviors (which we can control). Let me explain. Every day we hear about scandals and abuses of authority, as well as tragic stories of loved ones leaving the Church and many other heart-wrenching concerns. Any Catholic with a pulse would want to do something about these problems, but what?

We can’t make scandals go away. We can’t make a bishop or priest address a particular problem in the Church. We can’t make our loved ones return to the fullness of the Catholic faith. These are all desirable outcomes which, through our cooperation with grace, we can influence. Still, these outcomes are largely outside our direct control. What we can control–and what has, in the long run, the greatest salutary effect–is our own response to the call to holiness. Saints are not as glamorous as gunslingers, but even Our Lord’s recommendations for the really tough situations are prayer and fasting (cf. Mk. 9:28-29), two of the most powerful weapons wielded by those who really want to be of service to the Church.

Imagine there’s a mishap on an airplane and the craft begins losing cabin pressure. In the face of such a calamity, most of us would want to be courageous and help as many of our fellow passengers as possible. Yet, if we don’t use our own air mask first, in a matter of seconds we’ll be of no use to anybody. We would be among the first casualties.

That’s why as lay people, as Christians with the mission of bringing the Gospel to the world, our principal concern is the continual transformation of our own hearts, allowing Christ to make all the difference in our lives. If we seek first the face of Christ and the life of holiness, then we’re equipped to be His agents in a troubled world.

St. Maria Goretti, Chastity, and Modern Living

Monday, July 5th, 2010

Tomorrow (Tuesday) the Church celebrates the feast of St. Maria Goretti, a young girl who was stabbed to death, preferring to die rather than be raped. I thought I would offer five comments on this 20th-century saint.

(1) She is considered a “martyr” by the Church. That’s not a big deal at first blush, but think about it. She wasn’t asked to deny an article of the Creed. She wasn’t told by her assailant (who incidentally underwent a conversion in prison and was present at her canonization) to “reject Christ or die.”

Rather, she adamantly refused to cooperate in any form of sexual impurity. She accepted death rather than sacrifice her chaste virginity. She was a devout young lady who knew the seriousness of sins against the sixth and ninth commandments, how they are more than capable of severing our relationship with Christ. She died rather than compromise her relationship with Christ, and so is honored as a martyr.

From this it is easy to see why St. Maria Goretti is a fitting patron saint for today’s youth, whose faith is undermined not only by poor religious instruction and secularist ideologies, but often in more concrete fashion by the pervasive sexual immorality of our culture.

Yes, virtue still matters! [more]

(2) It follows from this that it’s extremely important to instill the virtue of chastity in our youth. Of course this has given rise in recent decades to classroom programs that provide “sex education” or “chastity education.” Some of these programs have thinly veiled anti-natalist, secularist, and/or pro-homosexual agendas, and they all destroy innocence. Elements of these poisons on occasion have found their way into” Catholic” programs, to the consternation of many parents.

Catholics United for the Faith has been a leader in upholding the Church’s teaching and pedagogy in this crucial area for decades. For more general information, check out these two “Faith Facts” available online at www.cuf.org:

Pure Biology? Effective Chastity Education

Chastity Begins At Home: Parental Rights and Chastity Education

(3) Part of the problem, it seems to me, is that classroom programs too often turn into a “how to” class rather than a “now not to until marriage” class. The former is the providing of information, in other words “sex education,” while the latter is “chastity education,” or training in virtue. But even “chastity education” programs at times overstep parental authority and provide graphic, private information at inappropriate times and in inappropriate ways.

When learning to drive a car or ski, the first thing we must learn is “How do I stop?” We are sexual beings. We are already oriented toward sexual activity. What we need is instruction and formation as to how to harness these natural urges in appropriate ways. Mere sexual instruction is simply throwing a child on skis down the mountain, often providing the very basis for a child’s becoming sexual active.

(4) This is an area where the “culture of death” is shown to be hypocritical and illogical. We constantly hear about the woman’s “right to choose” abortion. Society tells us that we must defer to the decision of the mother, who must be accorded unbridled freedom.

Yet, proponents of classroom sex education, who frequently are also Planned Parenthood supporters, tell us that young people can’t control themselves. They can’t be chaste, so at least we can help them be “safe” through extensive sex education. In other words, they tell us we’re only animals, that we’re biologically incapable of self control. They thereby encourage promiscuity, and then they introduce girls and young women into the horrors of abortion as a rational exercise of the “right to choose.”

Christ has much more to offer young women than that.

(5) The development of the virtue of chastity in our children is vitally important, and this does require a certain amount of teaching on the part of parents and those duly authorized to assist them. But even more, it’s all about our lived witness. We need Dads to avoid pornography. We need Moms to avoid soap operas and immodest dress. We need to be diligent in our own recreation and activities and habits as well as those of our children.

Growing in virtue is difficult work, but it’s also a work of grace. Let us today ask for St. Maria Goretti’s assistance:

Father,
source of innocence and lover of chastity,
you gave St. Maria Goretti the privilege
of offering her life in witness to Christ.
As you gave her the crown of martyrdom,
let her prayers keep us faithful to Your teaching.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

This article originally appeared on the CUF blog, but surely the content is still as timely as ever!

Spiritual Cataracts

Monday, June 21st, 2010

Today’s Gospel is the familiar passage from Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, in which He advises us to remove the large beams from our own eyes before trying to remove the tiny specks from our neighbor’s eye. This lesson has long been a source of fruitful meditation for me.

Several years ago, after Mass in which that same Gospel was read, I decided that I would try to illustrate the point of the lesson to my children.

What I did was blindfold two of my daughters after dinner, and they took turns trying to lead the other around the basement. Quite predictably, there were many humorous collisions and wrong turns. It was truly a case of the blind leading the blind–or, in the case of my fair-haired daughters, the blonde leading the blonde! But when one of them was able to remove her blindfold, she was easily able to lead her sister from point A to point B.

The children learned that while it’s a very good thing to help others in need, we have to allow the Lord to help us first.

I used another analogy with them. [more]I told them to imagine that there’s a mishap on an airplane and the craft begins losing cabin pressure. In the face of such a disaster, most of us would want to be courageous and help as many of our fellow passengers as possible. Yet, if we don’t use our own air mask first, in a manner of seconds we’ll be of no use to anybody. We would be among the first casualties.

This is a lesson for all of us. There are many people around us with impaired spiritual vision. Yet, as evil as some activities are, such as abortion, euthanasia, pornography, homosexual acts, and other such grave sins, they’re not the worst sins. And as bad as some individual criminals, dictators, and thugs may be, from Hitler to Bin Laden, their sins are not the worst sins, either.

Rather, the worst sins are our own sins. Why? Because they are the only ones that can separate us from the love of God and our eternal inheritance as His children. We have to learn to hate our sins absolutely, and to hate them even more than anybody else’s sins. We might not commit the horrid sins alluded to above, but we surely have pet sins, including sins we might even enjoy on some level.

Job one when it comes to Christian discipleship is to turn away from our own sin. “Convert” literally means “to turn with,” and so we turn with and toward Christ. Through prayer, Scripture reading, sacramental living, penance, and virtuous conduct we continually have to recommit ourselves anew to this orientation toward Christ. But when we turn “to” Christ we have to turn “away” from something, and so we must be utterly resolute when it comes to turning away from any and all sin in our lives.

Otherwise, our own spiritual cataracts will make us instruments of darkness, not of the light of Christ.

Working for Sunday

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

A friend recently asked me, “Isn”t human work the result of the fall? How should Catholics view the subject of work?” Here”s how I responded: [more]

In the beginning, God fashioned man in His image and likeness and called him to “cultivate and care for” (Gen. 1:15) the land that was given him. Therefore, work was part of human life before the fall, and thus it is not in itself a punishment or curse. Since the fall, work has become burdensome (see Gen. 3:17-19), but it has also been redeemed by Christ.

The life and preaching of Christ is instructive. For example, we know that He spent most of His years tending to the carpentry trade that St. Joseph taught Him. Once His public ministry began, He described His mission as involving work: “My Father is working still, and I am working” (Jn. 5:17), and He often likened His disciples to laborers for His harvest (e.g., Mt. 9:37-38).

He taught us to be diligent in our work, but also not to be enslaved by it. We must not let work or other worldly concerns consume us with anxiety, but rather we must see our work as a way of honoring the Father.

Work is a duty. As the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (no. 264) teaches: “No Christian, in light of the fact that he belongs to a united and fraternal community, should feel that he has the right not to work and to live at the expense of others (cf. 2 Thes 3:6-12).” Work enables us to participate in the ongoing work of creation as collaborators with God. In doing so, we become who we were created to be, we honor God through our use of the gifts and talents He gave us, we provide support for ourselves and our family, and we help build up the human community.

Work also enables us to participate in the ongoing work of redemption (cf. Col. 1:24). Work is a means of joyfully carrying our daily cross (Lk. 9:23) and being leaven to the world, both for our own sanctification and for the salvation of souls (see Catechism, no. 2427).

Because work is a God-given duty, it”s also a fundamental right. Its dignity is not based on what is done or made, but because it is done by man for the good of man. For that reason, the Church champions the rights of workers, including access to work without unjust discrimination of any kind, just wages, the ability to organize in unions and even, when it can”t be avoided and when necessary to obtain a proportionate benefit, strike (see Catechism, nos. 2433-36).

Lastly, the most important aspect of work is rest! The Sabbath rest was an integral part of God”s creation of the world (Gen. 2:2-3). Time away from work to worship God was what Moses tried to obtain from Pharaoh for the Israelite slaves in Egypt (see Ex. 5:1-3). And the observance of the Lord”s Day is an essential aspect of the Christian life in every generation.

On Sundays and other Holy Days of Obligation, believers must refrain from “engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord’2012-04-24 18:36:14′s Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body” (Catechism, no. 2185; see generally, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, nos. 258, 284-86).

Jesus stressed that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mk. 2:27), and the worship and rest that”s part of our Sunday celebration corresponds to the deepest needs and yearnings of the human heart.

For further reading, check out Laborem Exercens, Pope John Paul II”s 1981 encyclical on human work. 

The Pill, 50 Years Later

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the birth control Pill, it”s eminently reasonable to assess its effect on our culture. In the following article, Fr. Matthew Habiger, O.S.B. of NFP Outreach calls into question the qualifications and neutrality of the Pill”s proponents. Even more, Fr. Habiger points out some of the ways the Pill has harmed today”s men and women.

For those wishing to learn more about the Church”s teaching on birth control and natural family planning (NFP), My Catholic Faith Delivered has an outstanding four-lesson online course entitled “Celebrating Humanae Vitae.” The course was produced by Catholic Scripture Study, with dynamic video segments by Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life.

Here”s Fr. Habiger”s fine article: [more]

Some praise it to the heavens

Much of the literature extolling the merits of the Pill comes from the pharmaceutical companies and Planned Parenthood. That is very strange. They are the ones who stand most to benefit from this multi-billion dollar industry. They have a conflict of interest and cannot speak without a prejudicial bias. Why would anyone look to them for an unbiased assessment of the merits, or demerits, of the Pill? 

Would anyone give their unquestioned acceptance to the tobacco industry when they extol the merits of smoking? Should we not be suspicious of any study or paper that the tobacco industry produces to convince us that the latest brand of cigarette is a great gift to humanity? No matter how much money the tobacco industry has to funnel into publicity, and no matter how many times we hear or see their advertisements, the hard reality of all the medical damage that smoking causes to smokers does not change.

Why would anyone in their right mind not have reservations–and suspicions–about groups whose livelihood depends upon the sales of the Pill and other contraceptives? Should we not look to independent, disinterested, and non-profiting groups to provide us with a reliable assessment of the Pill? [more]

The pharmaceutical companies and Planned Parenthood sing the praises of the Pill to the heavens. Why? Because it is a great cash cow for them. Contraceptives are a multi-billion dollar industry.

But is every technological advancement a true sign of progress? Was the discovery and use of the machine gun and mustard gas during World War I a true sign of progress? If we have new forms of technology, does that mean we must use them? We have the hydrogen bomb. Should we ever use it? We can clone animals.  Should we ever clone human persons?

Now we can suppress, or destroy, our fertility. Is this a good thing or a bad thing, a blessing or a curse?

So-called advantages of the Pill

  • The Pill separates fertility from sex so that one can pursue sexual pleasure without the responsibility of a pregnancy.
  • The Pill makes it possible for a man or woman to have sex anytime, with anyone, and not get pregnant.
  • It allows a woman to pursue a career, have sex, and not to be bothered with a baby or a family. She is just like a man. But is that an advantage?
  • It makes life easy for men. Now they can have all the sex they want, and have no responsibility for a baby that they would otherwise be begetting. So why get married? Many men now postpone marriage, or never marry. When they reach old age, who will take care of them, or be interested in them?

The Pill has been prescribed for many things. It is like a panacea. Some doctors prescribe it for acne, irregular cycles (which does not address the real underlying problems), and, of course, as a contraceptive for young girls who are already having sex. Some doctors want young girls to start taking the Pill as soon as they begin to have their cycles, “just in case.”

A balanced assessment

Sterilized sex is not the unqualified good suggested by Planned Parenthood and its cohorts.  There are many, many harms and damages that result when we turn against our fertility.

Our fertility is a blessing, not a curse.  When God designed us as bodied persons, male or female, He made us to be both fertile and sexual. He wants us to “be fertile and multiply,” to marry and have a family, to share life with the next generation.

Sex was designed by God to be both love-giving and life-giving. Pleasure sought only for its own sake is called hedonism. This is a weakness, not a virtue; a lack of character, not a builder of character. God designed sex to be expressed between a man and a woman, who are totally committed to each other. Sex belongs in marriage. Only there does it express and accomplish what it was meant to express and accomplish. Contraception interferes with all this.  How?

The spousal act means that a spouse makes the total personal gift of self, of the man or woman, to the other. This total personal gift of self includes the heart, body, mind, soul, and will: the total person. And this includes their fertility. There are no conditions, no reservations, and nothing held back.

The Pill (contraception in general) and sterilized sex go together. It is repugnant to God and degrading to those who engage in it. Spousal love was meant to be the great symbol of total self-surrender between a husband and wife. But with the Pill, all this is reduced to recreational sex. Sterilized sex is unnatural.  It has brought great harm to our bodies, to our marriages, to our families, to our national life, and even to our natural environment. It is a major reason for the shortage today of priests and religious.

Dr. Rebecca Becks, M.D., is a married woman, with 5 children. Recently she wrote: “Why was the Pill first introduced by Dr. John Rock back in 1960? Wasn’t it to help women make their lives a little easier? Wasn’t it to strengthen marriage? Wasn’t it to make abortion a rare occurrence? And wasn’t it to improve society in general? And now, 50 years later, have those objectives been achieved? NO, on all counts.

“Birth control pills can cause serious medical problems. This category of pills has been shown to cause: death, pulmonary embolus, blood clots, stroke, migraines, increased rates of cervical cancer, increased sexual transmitted diseases (including HPV, Herpes and HIV), and prolonged infertility, including a whole host of minor symptoms which can become severe, such as depression.

“I stopped prescribing the Pill three years ago in part, because I couldn’t stand to see one more stroke victim, one more STD, one more cervical or breast cancer case, or one more “backup abortion” for failed contraceptives.  The main reason, though, that I stopped prescribing and using birth control, was because I understood through my Catholic faith, Humanae Vitae and the Theology of the Body, that birth control is bad for women because it is against God’s plan for human sexuality and marriage.”

The Pill destroys real love. Real love is creative and fertile. It is also demanding: it demands patience, kindness, and “endures all things.” Only this kind of love can become the firm foundation of a strong marriage and a happy family. It is a foundation to “endure all things.”

Radical feminism and believers in women’s liberation praise the Pill for a new found freedom. But this is a false freedom, a freedom without responsibility. You can have sex and you don’t have to have a baby. Then you can climb the corporate ladder without encumbrance. If you get pregnant, you can have a backup abortion.  But this is utilitarianism, the very opposite of love. It is using people as things for happiness. This concept of freedom when embraced by an entire society becomes a permanent threat to the family.

After 50 years of birth control we find these results. (1)  Marriages are crumbling instead of being strengthened, as the Pill proponents promised. (2) The race for women’s liberation, for freedom and control over their bodies, has made casualties of the unborn, and of children who get a single mother exhausted by work and overwhelmed by the burdens of raising a child alone.

Here is the paradox of the Pill. It was thought that the Pill would make abortions rare. The reality is that they have increased exponentially. The Pill was introduced to strengthen marriage. But the reality is that half of all contracepting couples get divorced. People thought that the Pill would strengthen the American family. The reality is that the family is slowly being demolished.

What we need to do

We need to wake up and call the Pill what it really is: the destroyer of love, of marriages, and of families.

Pope John Paul II said in Evangelium Vitae #58: “Today we need to look the truth in the eye and call things by their proper name, without resorting to compromises or yielding to the temptation of self-deception.”

Our marriages and family life are falling apart. Consider these undeniable facts:

 50% divorce rate
 40% of children today are born to unmarried mothers
 There were 90 million unmarried and single Americans in 2005.  This group comprises 41% of all U.S. residents age 18 and older.
 10.5 million single moms
 5 million unmarried-households in 2005 
 One out of four pregnancies are surgically aborted and there are many, many more early-on, chemical abortions.

Think of all the harm and pain that these factors bring to marriages, to any sense of permanent commitments, to spouses, to their children and their families. A nation is only as strong as its family life. Take a good look at our marriages and family life today. On the 50th anniversary of the Pill, we need to look at contraception again, and objectively assess what it has done to our lives, to our marriages, and to our families. 

We need to go on the offensive, as well as go on the defensive. On the defense, we point to the irrefutable harms that the Pill and contraception have brought us. On the offense, we point to the beautiful plan that God has for marriage, spousal love and the family. This plan is completely doable if both spouses avail themselves of all the aids and helps that God provides for them. Natural Family Planning encapsulates this plan, and makes is possible for a married couple to space their pregnancies responsibly, while always treasuring the gift of the child.

I recommend that people visit our website, www.nfpoutreach.org, and discover the wealth of materials there that explain the harms of contraception and the benefits of NFP and God’s plan for marriage, spousal love and family.  Click on “NFP Q&A,” and you will find 120 of my columns which explain the many aspects of contraception and NFP. They are free and copy ready. Use them as you wish. They make good newspaper columns, parish bulletin inserts, and radio commentary.  At NFP Outreach we help you find the materials you need to be an active player on the field in the game of advancing the culture of life while exposing and resisting the culture of death. Consider also having an NFP Parish Mission at your parish. Call us at 405-942-4084.