Dear high school students,
I’m sure you’ve all seen on the news about the federal contraception mandate and the Catholic uproar over it. You can read on the news what happened and how Catholics are reacting. I want you to understand why contraception is such a big deal.
We’ve talked before about how doing things God’s way is good for you. That’s true about sex and contraception, too.
God designed sex to be amazing. He designed sex to be a way for spouses to give themselves completely to each other, to strengthen their commitment to each other, and to produce children. When they express their love for each other this way, that love may become a child. And that’s beautiful. Sex allows married couples to participate in God’s love and in his creation.
Our culture today accepts all sorts of things that violate the sanctity of marriage and sexuality. One of these is contraception. Contraceptive sex is sex on our terms, not on God’s terms. Contraceptive sex says “I want the pleasure right now, but I don’t want the responsibility of raising children.” Contraceptive sex cannot be an act of total self-giving and isn’t an act of love -- remember, God designed sex to be an act of love. Contraceptive sex is using the other person for sexual pleasure.
God designed our bodies to work a certain way, and contraception interferes with that. Our bodies are naturally fertile. It’s healthy to be fertile. Advocates of contraception speak as if fertility (especially women’s fertility) were a defect and as if pregnancy were a disease. It’s not. Having a functioning reproductive system is just as healthy as having a functioning digestive system or a functioning respiratory system. God made our bodies to work a certain way, and it’s good and healthy when our bodies work the way God designed them.
The Catholic Church does not teach that once you’re married, you have to have sex all the time and have as many babies as your body can handle. We all know that sex can naturally result in children. But it doesn’t always. That’s because women’s bodies are designed to have fertile cycles -- there are only a few days per month when it’s possible for a woman to get pregnant. When a couple has sex during a time when the woman is naturally infertile, she can’t get pregnant. It’s possible (and, actually, not that hard) to learn how to tell when a woman is naturally fertile or infertile, and if a couple has a good reason to postpone a pregnancy, they can abstain from having sex when the woman is fertile. God designed women’s bodies to go through these cycles naturally. He also designed our brains so we can learn how to do this. The Catholic Church teaches that couples must be open to having children, but if there are times in their marriage when having a child seems unwise, they are permitted to abstain from sex during fertile times to postpone pregnancy. This is called Natural Family Planning, and you can find more about it at www.ccli.org.
NFP isn’t just another form of contraception. By having contraceptive sex, the couple abuses the sanctity of marriage and sex. By not having sex during fertile times, a couple is simply not having sex. With contraception, the couple does not want children. With NFP, the couple thinks that, because of their circumstances, it’s unwise to have children right now, but they are open to life. With any method of contraception or with NFP, there can be surprise pregnancies. With contraception, surprise pregnancies are called “mistakes” or “failures.” With NFP, surprise pregnancies are called “children.”
That’s the Church’s teaching in a nutshell. If you have more questions, let me know and I will be happy to answer them.
Here’s a little more information on contraception and NFP:
● Many people think that NFP is not effective at preventing pregnancy. That’s not actually true. A 2007 study showed that NFP is 99.6% effective when used properly.
● NFP couples have healthier marriages and almost never divorce.
● Side-effects of chemical contraceptives (including the birth control pill) include nausea, vomiting, weight gain, and infertility. NFP doesn’t have any side effects, and when you’re ready to have children, you don’t have problems with infertility.
● NFP doesn’t cost any money. You need a thermometer, and you need to be able to stick it under your tongue. And you need a pencil, so you can record your information. Birth control pills can cost $15 to $50 a month, according to Planned Parenthood.
● NFP is better for the environment. We all know that it’s bad to put chemicals in food and let chemicals drain into our lakes and rivers. Why would we put chemicals in our bodies (and let them drain into our lakes and rivers) if we don’t need to?
● When the inventors of the birth control pill were testing the pill on women, three women died. They didn’t bother investigating whether the pill caused their deaths.
Women, don’t let our culture tell you that pregnancy is a disease or that your fertility is a problem. Men don’t take pills or use chemicals to interfere with how their bodies work naturally - why should we? Fertility is good and healthy, and motherhood is a beautiful thing. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Save sex for when you’re married, and if you marry, be open to life. Here is a quote from Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty:
“The most important person on earth is a mother. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral - a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby’s body. The angels have not been blessed with such a grace. They cannot share in God’s creative miracle to bring new saints to heaven. Only a human mother can. Mothers are closer to God the Creator than any other creature. God joins forces with mothers in performing this act of creation. What on God’s good earth is more glorious than this: to be a mother?”
PS Luke wrote something for the guys:
Contraception is unmanly. I’m not going to tell you it’s bad, because that’s what the rest of this letter is for. I’m going to tell you why it’s unmanly. As men, we have a special duty to take care of women. So if there’s one thing that men (real men, that is) don’t do, it’s take advantage of women.
It takes two to have a baby. And the way God designed things, it takes two not to have a baby. Mary explained how this works in the section about NFP. Both people have to do their part. Basically every kind of contraception (except condoms) works by messing up how women’s bodies work so that they’re not fertile. So instead of it taking two, contraception makes women do all the work.
Again, if there’s one thing that men don't do, it’s take advantage of women. If we’re not willing to abstain for a few days per month so that women don’t have to pump a bunch of chemicals into their bodies, then we’re not taking care of women, we’re taking advantage of them. We’re saying to them “I want to have sex whenever I want, so mess up your body so I don’t have to abstain.” If you're not married, you shouldn't be having sex in the first place. If you are married and there’s a good reason not to have a baby, do things the right way and do your part.
Be a man.
P.S. And ladies, don’t settle for men who don’t live up to this.