I believe in God… I believe in the Holy Catholic church. This is just an extract from the Nicene Creed, or the Apostle’s Creed.
I once went for mass and the celebrating priest challenged all of us. If we believed in the Holy Catholic church, then we believe too in what the church teaches. Many are the times we have engaged in moral discussions and challenged each other on what has caused so much moral decadence in the society. We often ask ourselves why. Many are the times the church has been blamed. Many are the times we say ‘the church has failed’.
As a prolifer, I was challenged to find out if the church really teaches on the moral issues of marriage, Sex and birth control.
Before I look into that, let me talk about the society we live in today. It is a society where Moral values are informed by media and academic training, and very soon, it will be self induced. Parental and religious guidance has lost its authority. The institution of marriage and family are under threat. Some of us are becoming career women and men and a husband or wife is not an option. For others, children are a burden which should be avoided at all costs, in that they may hinder career development. If need arises for a child to be a necessity, then a contract is signed between a man and woman, a child is conceived and each person goes their own ways. Or a woman goes to a sperm bank and describes the kind of baby she would want and In-vitro fertilization is carried out. Population control has become the way forward. Internationally, the threat of transfer of power via numbers is at play so populations have to be controlled and profit has to be made in the process. Therefore all population control measures are being used which range from we being told we are too many to modes of contraception being availed, including abortion. Sex has become the in thing. The society is promoting sexual activity for people as young as 7 years old. Virginity and chastity are passed as very shameful traits. Children who are active sexually early will demand contraception, when it fails abortion services ought to be available. Therefore the eventual result is a pro contraception and a pro abortion society.
Sadly, the state backs up all the above stated issues. The Constitution being supreme law of the Republic and binding all persons and all State organs at both levels of government has clauses that are permissive to abortion and a chapter that promotes reproductive health to women. The state has gone to great extents as to avail condoms in all public facilities. The university where I did my undergraduate had condom dispensers in all washrooms, both ladies and gents.
But sadder yet is that we have embraced this sexual active culture to the extent that we are more scared of our girls, daughters and sisters getting pregnant than getting AIDS or any other sexually transmitted diseases. We have then taken measures to support the culture than morally educate the young people on the importance of chastity. For instance, parents, to counter their very sexually active girls have taken them to the family planning specialists and have had Norplant put on their arms. They also have doses of hormonal pills prescribed for them.
But the saddest part is the religious denominations today are changing to suit the social demands. The Church is not transforming people. It is being transformed by people.
Let us examine the flipside of this coin. Has the church really failed?
Besides the commandment, thou shall not commit adultery, The Catholic Church has been opposed to contraception for as far back as one can historically trace. The Catechism of the Catholic Church specifies that all sex acts must be both unitive and procreative. Therefore, young unmarried people should not be sexually active. This also is backed by one of the apostolic letters of St. Paul where he criminalizes fornication.
In addition to condemning use of artificial birth control as intrinsically evil, mutual masturbation and anal sex are ruled out as ways to avoid pregnancy, so the church proclaims them evil.
The Catholic Church then goes on to teach about the institution of marriage. Two people bound in marriage are bound in a covenant, a covenant made in heaven. In 1968, Pope Paul VI issued his landmark encyclical letter Humanae Vitae (Latin, “Human Life”), which reemphasized the Church’s constant teaching that it is always intrinsically wrong to use contraception to prevent new human beings from coming into existence. It explains that the Love between a man and a woman is total, a very special form of personal friendship in which husband and wife share everything generously without undue reservations or selfish calculations. Whosoever loves a marriage partner loves not only for what is received, but for partner’s self, rejoicing that both can be enriched with the gift of themselves. It goes further to explain that this love is faithful and exclusive until death. Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained towards the begetting and educating of children. Children are a supreme gift of marriage and contribute very sustainably to the welfare of the parents.
Scott and Kimberly Hanh in Rome Sweet Home explain that Marriage is not a contract involving exchange of goods and services. It is a covenant involving exchange of persons. They go ahead to explain that every covenant has a way of being enacted and renewed. Marital act is therefore a covenant act during which the marital covenant is renewed. The renewal of this covenant is always life giving. To renew the act and use birth-control to destroy the potential for new life and is tantamount to receiving the Holy Eucharist and spitting it out. Marital act demonstrates the powerful life giving love of the marital covenant in a unique way. It is so powerful, it communicates life. Marital act is then sacred, and every time contraception is used, it’s profane.
The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception. It is the sacredness and nobility of the marriage covenant and act that makes the church stand firm against contraception or any act that stops the marriage act from becoming what it’s intended to be. Contraception is wrong because it’s a deliberate violation of the design God built into the human race, often referred to as “natural law.” The natural law’s purpose of sex is procreation. The pleasure that sexual intercourse provides is an additional blessing from God, intended to offer the possibility of new life while strengthening the bond of intimacy, respect, and love between husband and wife. The loving environment this bond creates is the perfect setting for nurturing children. Sexual pleasure within marriage becomes unnatural, and even harmful to the spouses, when it is used in a way that deliberately excludes the basic purpose of sex, which is procreation. God’s gift of the sex act, along with its pleasure and intimacy, must not be abused by deliberately frustrating its natural end—procreation.
Some forms of contraception that the church has condemned include sterilization, condoms and other barrier methods, spermicides, coitus interruptus (withdrawal method), the Pill, and all other such methods. It also criminalizes abortion. The Human Vitae, which is excluded as the teaching authority of the church condemns tubal ligations, vasectomies, and the Pill. Similarly excluded is every action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible.
Is the Church justified to be against contraception? I would say yes to that. The Bible mentions at least one form of contraception specifically and condemns it. Coitus interruptus, was used by Onan to avoid fulfilling his duty according to the ancient Jewish law of fathering children for one’s dead brother. (Gen.38: 8–10). The church may justify the other forms of contraception, especially, the artificial ones, here the hormonal pills being point of reference, due to its adverse effects on the woman. Heart & Blood Abnormalities i.e. Blood clots, High blood pressures, Cancer i.e. breast, Cervical, Endometrial & Ovarian cancer and Liver Tumors are the various effects besides weight gain or loss, abnormal menstrual cycles and over bleeding being the commonest.
Researchers have attributed the increase in the breast cancer cases to the increased use of contraception. In layman’s terms, a friend of mine always explains it like this; Every time fertilization occurs, a message is sent to the brain that a woman is pregnant which in turn instructs the mammary glands to prepare to breastfeed in 9 months time. This process is terminated by an arbotifacient, i.e. all “contraceptives” that prevent implantation. But nothing happens to the mammary cells that were working on producing milk in the next 9 months. Cancer is abnormal enlargement of any cells and tissues. The mammary glands after continued tampering of the pregnancy process end up being cancerous. This trend has also been attributed to early menopause and difficulty in getting pregnant way before menopausal age.
Another effect that gives 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.
However, The Church states that if there are serious reasons to space out births, reasons which derive from the physical or psychological conditions of husband and wife, or from external conditions, the Church teaches that it is morally permissible to take into account the natural rhythms of human fertility and to have coitus only during the infertile times in order to regulate conception without offending the moral principles which have been recalled earlier. Thus, the same teaching of the Church which condemns the use of the unnatural methods of birth control explicitly approves of the use of Natural Family Planning when there is a sufficient reason to avoid or postpone pregnancy. With its emphasis on the necessity of a serious reason to use even the natural methods, the Church is warning against selfishness in family planning.
I am a woman who must then analyze all this from a woman’s point of view. They say in matters sex, nothing can happen without the consent of a woman and if it does, it is rape. All the adverse effects affect the woman. The woman pays eventually for the mistakes of the society.
In my conclusion, the truth is, the Church teaches. It teaches daily on Moral issues through sermons, through write ups, through the media e.g. Authorized videos, among other methods of communication. To know the Church’s teaching on an issue, one only needs to sit down and do some research. It is therefore not right to blame our moral failures on the Church. We are cheating ourselves. Or rather we are finding a way to justify ourselves by blaming the church. The Church has done its part, but the question is, are we listening?
They also say, it is harder to accept the naked truth but very easy to welcome the clothed lie. The Church has taught. Do we still believe, in the Holy Catholic Church?