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.
- 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.