"Big Four" Highlights


Throw-Away Culture

The serious consequences of artificial contraception

By Jason Godin
Associate Editor, Fathers for Good

The days of late December leave loads of gift boxes and wrapping paper in their wake. We need to get rid of the things that provided smiles, surprises and pleasures when seen under the tree, but now have little purpose. Time to throw them away.

As we near the date of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia this September, it seems appropriate to take serious stock of what can cause us to see one of our greatest gifts – our spouse – in the same way as the boxes and wrapping paper. What leads us to see him or her more as a thing of pleasure or fulfillment than a person worthy of daily sacrifice? Why does such a shallow view hurt society as well as our family?

Such questions speak to what Pope Francis has often called, in his typically colorful terms, a “throwaway culture.” Yet an earlier Bishop of Rome warned the world nearly 50 years ago about descending into such a culture that would treat persons more as objects than as precious beings made in God’s image. That pope was Blessed Paul VI, who was beatified by Pope Francis last October, and his message still resounds over the decades and seems more relevant day to day.

In prophetic words not widely appreciated when promulgated in 1968, Paul VI wrote about marriage and families, the mutual good of spouses, and the centrality of the family to the health of society. His encyclical was called Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life), a document which has been dismissed by some even within the Church, but which deserves a more open and intelligent hearing in view of today’s societal ills.

Employing language that could be found in a number of secular case studies on spouses today, Blessed Paul VI reflected on the serious consequences of couples using artificial contraception. The Holy Father feared “that the man who becomes used to contraceptive practices, may in the end lose respect for his wife” and “no longer caring about her physical and psychological well-being, will come to the point of considering her a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer his respected and beloved companion” (17). Sound familiar? He could be describing marriage in our divorce culture or the hook-ups of the young.

Paul VI recognized that many married couples had already opened the proverbial Pandora’s Box of artificial contraception. But rather than appeal to a return to a nostalgic past, the Holy Father asked readers to realize the real result of a contraceptive mindset and culture, such as in vitro fertilization, a growing disrespect within intimacy, and a sad slavery to our primal senses.

In the face of great criticism both then and now, Paul VI also broadened the artificial contraception debate beyond the bedroom. He termed artificial contraception a “dangerous weapon” that would “be placed in the hands of those public authorities who have no concern for the requirements of morality” (17).

“Who could blame a government for applying, as a solution to the problems of the community, those means acknowledged to be permissible for a married couple in solving a family problem? Who will prevent rulers from favoring, and even imposing upon their people, the method of contraception they judge to be the most effective, if they should consider this to be necessary?” (17). Sadly, some international aid agencies tie relief in the Third World to reduced population goals achieved through forceful promotion of contraceptives.

Resolve this year to show your spouse and others that it is possible for an unconditional openness to life to result in health and happiness. Take the timeless teachings of Blessed Paul VI to the heart of your home. Talk together about artificial contraception. Expose it for what it really is: unhealthy for your union, a barrier to your freedom, whose consequences make it seriously worth throwing away as an empty promise of our culture.