Radio, TV and print journalists delight in providing data from polls. I in particular love the ones that concern artificial contraception. I can’t count how many times I’ve watched a television reporter exclaim with wide eyes that “approximately <nn> percent of American Catholics use artificial contraception,” or even better, “it is estimated that <nn> percent of American Catholics do not accept the Church’s teaching on artificial contraception and use birth control.”
Faithful Catholics – ones who do accept the Church’s teaching on artificial contraception – have different kinds of reaction. Some are shocked by the numbers. Others are scandalized.
I find these kinds of statistics about Catholics to be hilarious. They make me laugh every time I hear them, and here’s why.
Let’s start with the logical part. When I was a freshman in college (yes, this was a LONG time ago, thank you very much!), I took a course in logic. It was a very good course. Logic was normally taught in an Aristotelian format prior to this (example: Socrates is a man, all men are mortal, and therefore all men are Socrates). The logic course I took dealt with current day examples of faulty logic instead of the kind of example I put in parentheses (yes, I know that example is wrong and silly).
One example of a logical fallacy from the course I took was of a poster of Elvis Presley (still alive at that time) who had recordings for sale. The caption of the poster read: “50 Million Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong!”
Well of course they can be wrong, all 50 million of them. And so can <nn> percent of Catholics who reject the Church’s teaching on birth control.
This is the first reason I find polls which tell me what Catholics accept or don’t accept as peculiarly humorous. The wide-eyed reporter seems to say between the lines “Wow! This is a serious problem for the Church! Aren’t you Catholics the least bit worried about this?”
Not this one. Not one bit. While it is true that Jesus came to save humanity, He also came as a personal Lord to each one of us. He gave us a way of life. It is up to me to accept or reject that way of life. I choose to accept it, and to accept the teachings of the Church He founded. The fact that my Catholic neighbor Joe Jones and his wife Sally use condoms, a diaphragm, or birth control pills does not scandalize me in the least. I am sorry for them that they don’t have the joy of following the teachings of the Church founded by Jesus on this, but their particular decision in this instance is not something which keeps me up at night…nor should it.
Now here’s a second reason I find the reporters’ quoting of poll statistics about Catholics and artificial contraception humorous. The implication is that since a majority of American Catholics reject the Church’s teaching on a particular matter, the Church should therefore consider changing its teaching.
So think of this. Let’s say the Church decides to change its teaching every time the wind blows a certain way. The Pope gets up each morning and tests the wind. Today we say artificial contraception is okay. Well, now there are a large number of Catholics who no longer believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. So we change that and say Eucharist is just a symbol. Wait, now Catholics have voted a fourth person into the Trinity, so now we have four persons in one God.
I think you get the idea. It’s ridiculous. The Catholic Church is not a democracy. We don’t vote for what we believe in. The Church is a conduit of Truth which has existed since Christ founded it. It has outlasted empires, dynasties, and been in existence far longer than the democracies of today.
And yet a third reason to laugh at the polls.
The very first direct statement in which God tells man what He wishes from humankind occurs in Genesis. This is known as the first mitzvoth, or commandment, in the Torah. In fact, of the 613 mitzvoth in the Torah it is the only one which occurs in Genesis. God tells Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28 – “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the Earth and subdue it.”
Hmmmm. Sounds pretty direct to me. God didn’t tell Adam and Eve, “I’m giving you this great gift of sex. It’s going to be great fun! I designed it for you to just have a grand ol’ time, find some kind of personal fulfillment. Oh, and if it’s not too much of a bother, I’d like it if you’d please make some more of your kind with it. I mean, if it doesn’t interrupt your careers and vacation plans and that bucket list thing where you put off children so you can bike around the world, climb Mount Everest, shake hands with the Queen of England and learn how to ride a camel under the shadow of the Great Pyramids.”
Instead of looking at this in a negative light, i.e., what we are asked to do at some cost to us, let’s consider another angle. Recall that in Luke Chapter 3, verse 8, John the Baptist says to the crowds who came to be baptized by him, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance, and do not start telling yourselves ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ because I tell you, God can raise children for Abraham from these stones.”
There you have it. God doesn’t “need” us to bring new life into the world. In fact, God doesn’t “need” anything. But God asks us to be co-creators with Him, to use the bodies He gave to us as the way to bring new life into this world, new souls to enjoy Heaven with Him through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Further, we are made for this. See, there’s something that gets missed in all the debates about issues involving the commands of God and His Church.
When people are told “no” on something, they feel that they are being restricted from enjoying life. These “rules” keep them from expressing themselves, from finding fulfillment. They are being deprived of happiness and are being “controlled” and manipulated by a Church hierarchy just bent on having power over people.
Baloney. Let me address this is in two parts. The first concerns God’s commandments through His Church.
Why does God lay down commands? So that we can live our life to the FULLEST as He has designed us to live it. Remember, God is the one who created everything. You know, He just might have a tad bit more understanding of how things should be than His creatures.
Secondly – look at what the misuse of sex has given us. Enter artificial contraception, enter a barrier to life, enter a barrier to two persons becoming one through the gift of matrimonial love. Now sex becomes another form of recreation, kind of like a tennis game in bed.
Some forms of artificial contraception protect one from social diseases. So a man or woman can commit an act of infidelity to a spouse and no one’s the wiser. No disease, no pregnancy.
And so then why not wallow in the lust and selfish pleasure that pornography brings? Use other human beings that you have no relationship with at all simply for your own pleasure. They aren’t persons anymore. They are objects to serve you, the created, and not the Creator.
Then uh-oh. Artificial contraception does not work all the time! So you’ve used it and it fails and…well…someone’s going to have a baby. Well let’s pull out the safety net for artificial contraception, known as abortion. Let’s make this innocent human life pay for our mistake. Someone(s) loved us enough to bring us into the world, to sacrifice for us to at least be able to breathe, but we’re not going to pass that on. We’ll snuff out this life and never give it a chance because we don’t want God’s gift of life which is an inconvenience.
But the Catholic Church directs couples to use Natural Family Planning, known as NFP. Isn’t that just another form of birth control?
No it isn’t. For one thing, artificial contraception has one mindset only: to block life from occurring through the gift of sex. NFP is oriented toward life. Yes, there are times when one abstains from sex, but this is not to be the complete use of NFP. It is a temporary pause in the cycle of life, and it involves abstaining from the sexual act which means God’s gift is not just being used for entertainment alone. By abstaining one honors the gift and the Giver by recognizing the value sex has and by treating it with respect.
If a couple marries and uses NFP with the intention of always avoiding pregnancy, then that is a misuse of NFP and the question needs to be raised as to why the couple married in the first place. Marriage was intended to form families through the bringing of new life into the word through a sacramental bond of love. A man and woman become one flesh.
And now a final thought. Some people reading this will no doubt consider, even if only in their minds, how over the centuries there have been times when people who did not love each other were forced to marry. New life came forth but not in a bond of mutual love. So doesn’t that make marriage a questionable institution?
Let me ask you: Does misuse of something mean that something was not designed for good and intended for good? Of course not. One can misuse anything. But the intention of marriage has always been to bring new life into the world within a sacramental bond of love.