Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

May 10, 2011

Consequences of the Contraceptive Mentality


Recent studies have connected several health risks for women to the use of hormonal contraceptives. As Pope Paul VI predicted with the 1968 release of the encyclical Humane Vitae which reaffirmed the Church’s teaching on married couples using only natural means to regulate and space the birth of children, there would be other consequences if artificial birth control became widely practiced. Share this reading with your students. Ask them to complete the assignment that follow.

Humanae Vitae, 17

Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives great cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection. Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.

Contraception Discussion Questions

What has happened since 1968? Unfortunately, Pope Paul VI’s predictions about the results of a contraceptive mentality have come true in so many cases. Here are some of the results:

  • The rates of abortion, venereal diseases, out of wedlock births, and divorce have risen dramatically.

  • Sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of women occur at unprecedented levels.

  • Population control policies are now a part of nearly every foreign aid discussion between developing and developed nations. The export of contraception, abortion, and sterilization tools to developing nations is now a requisite for reception of foreign aid in dollars.

  • The defining element of a woman’s identity—her potential for bearing new life—has been redefined as a liability. Her new identity is as a person with the freedom to choose to end life if she wishes while, ironically, the man bears no responsibility.

Assignment:

  • Write a position paper on the “contraceptive mentality” explaining its affects on women. In the paper, cite up-to-date statistics to support your claims.

Comments

1 Mary Ann

May 10, 2011
Hi Mike, Thank you for the ideas here. This is such a difficult subject because the majority of Catholics of child-bearing age do not adhere to this teaching of the Church. Contraception is seen as the norm. Yet, looking at the pope's predictions, we can see evidence that much of what he indicated has come to pass. I'd like to add to what you have here - perhaps there is not a direct link between contraception and the music industry, but if contraception were NOT accepted as "the norm", would we have lyrics that openly celebrate the exploitation of women? Would music have "evolved" (devolved would be more accurate!) to the point that it has in modern times? Students could generate examples of such lyrics (they're better at that than I am, that's for sure!). Another prediction that the pope made was that human beings would begin to feel that they had complete power over their own bodies - witness the transgender surgeries that are performed. Would we have situations like Chaz Bono if we, as a culture, had not embraced contraception? Finally, I have trouble with your last sentence - "the defining element of a woman's identity - her potential for bearing new life ". As a woman, yes, I view my role as a mother to be central to my identity. But there are many women who are not able to have children, and certainly at this point in my life I'm beyond "the potential for bearing new life", so I don't think of that as the defining element of my identity. Do we do women a disservice by indicating that their potential for bearing new life is the central element of their identity? Or, on the other side of the coin, do we consider the central element of a man's identity the ability to father a child? What about men who choose to remain celibate? These are just some thoughts that I had in reaction to your post. Thank you for taking on a difficult subject!

2 Mary Ann

May 10, 2011
Another question that comes to my mind is, are women now, and have they been in the past, exploited sexually in countries that prohibit contraception? The Taliban, for example, is opposed to contraception, but they exploit women in many ways. http://southasia.oneworld.net/todaysheadlines/talibans-in-afghanistan-draw-battle-lines-over-contraception In addition, Nicolae Ceausescu outlawed contraception in an attempt to increase the population of Romania, yet he could hardly be viewed as a great humanitarian. Adolf Hitler was also opposed to contraception, but that did not prevent the forced sterilization of certain segments of the population (I'm sure everyone is familiar with this, right?). So, even though he did not embrace the "contraceptive mentality", he orchestrated government-sponsored sterilizations and abortions on a large scale. In a discussion of contraception and the Church, we really need to focus on the natural law and respect for all of humanity as well as the pope's predictions, in my humble opinion. The use of contraception denies what the body's reproductive system is about. Are there any other systems of the body that we humans intentionally disrupt - permanently? The only one I could think of would be the digestive system, and in those cases people surgically disrupt how their body processes food. My understanding is that this is done in extreme cases, not routinely (as vasectomies/tubal ligations are done). Moreover, this is done not to completely end the function of the digestive system, but to partially limit the function. Not so with the reproductiv system!

3 Mike Amodei

May 11, 2011
Thanks, Mary Ann . . . your additions are very helpful.

4 William O'Leary

May 12, 2011
Good post. I would love to see more ideas on applying this subject in the classroom. Thanks!

5 Mary Ann

May 13, 2011
William, I take on this topic with my sophomores in Theology of the Body. When we get to that topic, first we look at the effectiveness rates of various forms of contraception. Students research hormonal methods and barrier methods to determine the success/failure rates of each. They also research NFP and the long-range consequences of that choice as well (lower divorce rates, etc.). They look at all the possible side effects of the hormonal methods. Then we discuss the various systems of the body, and point out how strange it would seem if we deliberately disabled one of the systems of the body to deny what it was intended to do. We discuss natural law, and ultimately that the teaching of the Church regarding contraception reflects the natural law. Does anyone else out there cover this topic in your classes? I'm always looking for helpful ideas on this topic!! We have several families in our school who are committed to following the teaching of the Church regarding contraception, but they are definitely in the minority and seen as "weird" by the other students and families. The majority of the families, I would wager, use contraception or are in favor of it.

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