When you drive up to a red light, you’re supposed to stop until the light turns green. That’s the general law of the land. Yet on a daily basis, I run red lights without getting ticketed. Why? Because there is an exception to the rule: you can run a red light if you are turning right.
The fact that there is an exception to the red light rule does not invalidate the rule in general. The fact that I can turn right on red doesn’t mean I should feel free to run red lights in all circumstances. Similarly, the fact that there are couples out there who are infertile does not automatically invalidate the Catholic Church’s conservative position on contraception. But try explaining that to a Facebook acquaintance of mine who is all too ready to accuse us Catholics (and our allies) of believing things we don’t actually believe. As he states:
“It’s about controlling women, about the Puritanical urge to make sure no one has sex except to make babies, even if you don’t want any.”
To which one of his friends replies:
“IF they get their way, they’ll eventually try to outlaw ANY sex that’s not for making babies–which means people who can’t have babies will have to live like monks.”
As I stated above, these two statements are so patently false that I don’t even know where to begin. But let’s start by explaining what the Church actually teaches about sex. You see, I have read a fair amount of the late (and Blessed) John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body,” and no where do I see it stated that sex has just a procreative function. Actually, the Holy Father acknowledges two vital functions of sex – the procreative and the unitive – and states that both must work in concert. It is just as much a sin, in other words, to have sex for the sole purpose of creating an heir, say, as it is to have contracepted intercourse. The first case ignores the unitive; the second case ignores the procreative.
Obedient Catholics can have sex without having babies, but it involves cooperating with God’s plan instead of imposing your own will upon it. Consider the infertile married couple. The fact that their sex results in no issue does not in fact make their sex a sin because it is not their fault that they are infertile. That is what God has decreed for them. Similarly, an elderly couple is still allowed to have sex despite the wife’s menopause because, again, menopause is a part of God’s plan for female human beings. And then there is Natural Family Planning. God has designed the female human body in such a way that each woman has both fertile and infertile periods, and NFP allows a Catholic couple to follow this cycle to either prevent or enable pregnancy. In each of these three cases, the couples are still open to God and His desires for us. That’s the true key. This idea that the Church simply wants us to pump out rugrats is a monumental distortion of her teachings.
(And by the way, to head off the usual objection, NFP is effective provided you receive training from a licensed specialist and are motivated to follow God’s program. Science has pushed NFP far beyond the oft ridiculed “rhythm method.”)
In my estimation, it is highly, highly unlikely that the Catholic Church and her allies will go so far as to “outlaw sex that’s not for making babies” even if they do gain the power to do so. In addition to all the exceptions to the rules noted above, the Church explicitly teaches that we Catholics must work within the larger civil society, and if that means making compromises, we must make compromises. I think the Church understands the extent to which the sexual revolution has taken hold in our culture, and I think she understands that we will never be able to put the genie entirely back in the bottle. Will the Church do everything she can to mitigate the effects of that revolution? Yes. But that is not the same as demanding that we outlaw non-procreative sex, and all honest people know it.
And while we’re on the subject, what are we to make of the effects of the sexual revolution? My Facebook acquaintance clearly considers it axiomatic that sex is more fun when it has no limits. But is that actually the case? No. As the social science reveals, married couples have more fun, perhaps because they feel more secure in their relationships. It is also quite clear that “free love” has been disastrous for our children. Children both desire and need stable families, and they are less likely to have them so long as we adults ignore our responsibilities to selfishly pursue our own transient pleasures.
And as for the issue of control, my rejoinder is this: Who’s controlling whom? As far as I’m concerned, you leftists are the most controlling people on the planet when it comes to sex. If you are an unborn human being? Sorry, but we only care about your mother’s freedom to have sex without consequences. Your rights don’t matter. If you are an OB/GYN who doesn’t approve of abortion? Sorry, but we don’t care about your personal beliefs. We will force you to perform a procedure with which you don’t agree. If you are a Catholic pharmacist who doesn’t wish to sell the birth control pill? Too bad. We leftists have decreed that women have an absolute right to get birth control at every pharmacy in the U.S. regardless of what individual pharmacists think about the matter. If you are a pastor who doesn’t believe in gay marriage? You are a bigot, and you have no right to decide which marriages your church will and will not endorse. If you are a Catholic adoption agency who places children only with heterosexual married couples? We leftists will use the power of the state to compel you to place children with gay couples. Who exactly is anti-liberty here when all is said and done? If these leftists were actually frank with themselves, they would realize that they are just as eager to impose their peculiar sexual morality on everyone else as they accuse us Christians of being. Their talk of “rights” and “freedom” is pure bunk.