The contraceptive mentality is a prevailing attitude in our current society which says “I want control over my body and my fertility,” and “Sex is for fun, not babies.”
This particular issue caused our first heated argument when James and I were engaged many years ago. Like many Catholics, I wanted the “freedom” to be able to use whatever I wanted in the area of contraception. Since we were living 500 miles apart at the time, James and I debated back and forth for many weeks through letters (email was not available at the time). In one particular letter to me, James wrote, “The way I picture it, when we consummate our marriage, it should be you, me and God. That’s all. Why should any contraceptive company and their business plan and their advertising strategy have anything to do with our intimacy? When I think of me using a condom, it means that I’m actually holding back a part of myself. And if you were using a diaphragm or the pill or something, you would be keeping a part of yourself from me. When we give ourselves to each other, it should be a total gift, not a partial one…”
At the time, I remember thinking, “Why is he making such a big deal out of this?” Eventually, it dawned on me. It was a big deal. James wasn’t trying to convince me to give in to his sexual appetites. He was trying to help me to understand the truth that artificial contraception separates a couple and is not good for marriage.
Canadian singer and composer, Mark Mallett, writes, “Contraception is like a condom over the heart.” Use of contraception is a mortal sin (see Catechism of the Catholic Church 2368-2370) and separates a couple spiritually and physically during their most intimate embrace.
We are all called to love as Christ loves. Conjugal love is meant to image the free, total, faithful and fruitful love of Christ (for more information, see p. 91 Theology of the Body for Beginners.) Contraception violates not just one, but all four aspects of marital love.
Many people say, “I don’t believe that contraception is wrong, so it’s fine for me to use it.” However, Christopher West writes in his book Theology of the Body for Beginners (p. 105): “Even if a couple is innocent in this regard (culpability), contraception will still have its damaging effect on their relationship. For example, if I drink a cup of poison, but don’t know it’s poison, I…am not culpable for my own death. But it will still kill me. Whether I think it’s poison or not has no bearing whatsoever on whether it is poison or not.”
There might be times, however, when a married couple has a serious reason to avoid pregnancy. In these circumstances, NFP, or Natural Family Planning, can be used to a high degree of effectiveness. A couple who uses NFP determines when the woman is fertile. If avoiding pregnancy, they abstain from relations. Couples who use NFP do not violate the free, total, faithful, fruitful love which they promised at their wedding.
The attitude which says “I want control over my body,” and “Sex is for fun, not babies,” is a poison which is damaging to marriage and to society at large. NFP is the antidote to that way of thinking.
For more information on NFP:
Recommended Reading and Listening:
Good News About Sex and Marriage by Christopher West
Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West
Theology of the Body for Teens by Jason and Crystalina Evert and Brian Butler
God’s Plan for a Joy-Filled Marriage CDs and DVDs by Christopher West
Copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach