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The Contraceptive Chickens Have Come Home to Roost
By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.
May 22nd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
One consequence implied but not expressly mentioned by Pope Paul VI in his encyclical Humanae vitae was the logical link between the acceptance of contraception and homosexual sex. In her essay on the subject entitled "Contraception and Chastity," however, the Catholic philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe saw it clearly: "If contraceptive intercourse is permissible," she wrote in the early 1970s, "it becomes perfectly impossible to see anything wrong with homosexual intercourse."CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - Ideas have consequences, as the title of Richard Weaver's famous book points out, especially if the ideas become acculturated and internalized and so part of the conventions of a social body.
One such idea is the idea that artificial contraception, which is to say the intentional severance by technical means of the sexual act and procreation (which are naturally united in an unhampered normal sexual act) is a good. This necessarily means that sex artificially unmoored from its procreative aspect is a good, and this further necessarily implies that any sex, including sex naturally unprocreative such as homosexual sex, is good.
The Church, of course, teaches that artificial contraception is never, under any circumstances, a good. Intentional and knowing use of artificial contraception is, in each and every case, an intrinsic evil. The general reason behind this is that it is wrong, against the natural moral law and the nature of the sexual act, intentionally to sever the procreative aspect of human sexuality from the unitive aspect of human sexuality. See generally Catechism of the Catholic Church § 2366-70; Humanae vitae No. 12, 14.
But that idea has been rejected by Western societies--frequently by supposed Catholics themselves--and the Church appears to be the lone voice crying out in the wilderness. But as John T. Noonan wrote in his book on the history of contraception, the "idea that offspring were to be avoided," and sex nevertheless justified as good, was an idea that was to have morally and socially "dangerous" consequences.
Once the idea that artificial contraception was a good had become acculturated, we found ourselves in a "contraceptive culture." What naturally follows is that all cultural structures--the media, schools, advertisers, social services--promote that culture so that it becomes internalized, habitual, a second nature to the individual in that culture.
Once the contraceptive culture has also become internalized by the people, they form what has been referred to as a "contraceptive mentality." When that occurs, not only has culture as a whole adapted to see contraception as a good, making it a social convention, but it has become internalized, habitual, on a one-by-one basis and we have trouble even seeing outside the conventions of the day.
The natural law can thus be silenced, as it was in slave-holding societies where the population had developed a slave owning mentality, or in Nazi Germany, where there was an anti-Semitic mentality, or, in the example that St. Thomas Aquinas gives, among the Germanic tribes where thievery was considered morally acceptable. (S.T. IaIIae, q. 94, art. 4, c.)
This "contraceptive mentality" views as normal the separation of sexual intercourse from procreation. It never even enters the head of someone with a contraceptive mentality that there is something despicable in severing the unitive aspect of sexual intercourse from its procreative aspect by artificial means.
Not only does someone with a contraceptive mentality not see or even intimate the evil, he or she may perversely see himself or herself as exercising responsible parenthood or responsible sexuality by using artificial contraception. The ability to access authentic conscience is dulled, and--without grace--ordinarily unreachable. Reason alone has a hard time breaking through a contraceptive mentality because reason's quiet voice is both drowned out by the load noise of lust and muffled by the walls of social convention.
The last step in this progression is when the idea that has become acculturated and internalized becomes a legal right. Then the full public force of law is behind the idea, forcing it on one-and-all. We have reached such a nadir in this country, where we view contraception as a right, one even to be funded by the common treasury, one even imposed upon religious consciences that hold to the natural moral law and traditional religious teaching which considers it an intrinsic evil. Such a society has become habituated to evil. It is a vicious society.
It was, and is, naïve to think that a contraceptive culture and contraceptive mentality do not have social consequences. These were quite foreseeable. It did not take a prophet, merely a logician, to see that inviting artificial contraception into the stream of moral normality would result in serious moral dislocations regarding sexuality. Once marital sex may be severed from procreation and considered good, it logically follows that any sex between anyone is considered a good.
In his encyclical Humane vitae, Pope Paul VI reaffirmed the Church's traditional teaching that the intentional use of artificial contraception was intrinsically evil. But he also asked the world to reflect on what would be the consequences of accepting artificial methods of birth control: "marital infidelity," "general lowering of moral standards," loss of "reverence due to a woman," and an increase of governmental power "to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife" are among those consequences he identified.
One consequence implied but not expressly mentioned by Pope Paul VI was the logical link between the acceptance of contraception and homosexual sex. In her essay on the subject entitled "Contraception and Chastity," however, the Catholic philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe saw it clearly:
"If contraceptive intercourse is permissible," she wrote in the early 1970s, "then what objection could there be after all to mutual masturbation, or copulation in vase indebito, sodomy, buggery . . . when normal copulation is impossible or inadvisable (or in any case, according to taste)?"
And if such sexual conduct is acceptable to couples, she observed, then it follows that homosexual sex must be acceptable. "[I]f such things are all right, it becomes perfectly impossible to see anything wrong with homosexual intercourse."
It does not happen all it once. There is a sort of social inertia that slows the logic down, but in a few generations the logic plays itself out. "I am not saying: if you think contraception all right you will do these other things; not at all. The habit of respectability persists and old prejudices die hard."
But it remains true that once the premise is accepted--that sexual intercourse and procreation are separate things, not intertwined, and can therefore be separated by technical means with moral impunity--Anscombe recognizes that one will "have no solid reason" to argue against homosexual sex. "You will have no answer to someone who proclaims as many do that "homosexual sexual acts "are good too."
The Christian teaching regarding human sexuality is well-reasoned and well-integrated. You cannot throw one part out as inconvenient or not to your liking without ruining the entire structure.
For this reason, once artificial contraception was admitted as a good and rejected as a moral evil, all Christian sexuality was implicitly rejected. "Because, if you are defending contraception," Anscombe says, "you will have rejected Christian tradition" on the matter and accepted the morality of the heathen.
Indeed, the Christian tradition against contraception that Anscombe mentions was deep enough to have escaped the intellectual scalpels of the Protestant reformers who had no scruple in carving out large parts of Christian tradition. The Catholic Church's traditional teachings were carried over by the Protestant reformers, largely as a result of their traditional interpretation of the incident involving Onan found in the 38th chapter of Genesis.
For example, in his Commentary on Genesis, John Calvin says that a woman who "drives away the seed out of the womb, through aids," is "rightly seen as an unforgivable crime." Similarly, Luther in his Lectures on Genesis called contraception "unchastity," equivalent to sodomy, "more atrocious than incest and adultery." In his Notes on the Bible, Wesley called contraception one of those sins that "dishonor the body," are "vile actions," and "very displeasing to God."
The fact is a contraceptive people, a contraceptive culture, and persons with a contraceptive mentality have rejected Christian moral tradition. A contraceptive people, a contraceptive culture, and persons with a contraceptive mentality have "no solid reason," to argue against the proponents of homosexual sex and same-sex "marriage." They have "no answer" to a same-sex couples who want their sex--a sex which is similarly infertile as the couple who uses contraception--to be considered a good.
This inability by persons with a contraceptive mentality that are part of a contraceptive culture to craft an answer or give a solid reason to homosexuals who insist on their sex as good and their unions as good explains the collapse of opposition to homosexual sex in general and same-sex "marriage."
The chickens of the contraceptive mentality have come home to roost.
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at email@example.com.
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