Recently, the President of the United States issued a mandate on health care legislation regarding contraception. This mandate has put the Church in an impossible situation: cover the cost of birth control techniques (thereby abandoning our Catholic identity) or shutter our various social institutions (Catholic Charities outreach, schools, hospitals, etc. will be burdened with non-compliance fines that we can’t afford). This is a very serious situation – in a free country, this need not be an issue at all, but that is a different topic altogether.
This is a vocation-promotion blog, and I would like to stick as close to the theme of the blog as possible, and that is vocations. This unfortunate episode in the history of our country has focused attention on usage of contraception. In a free country, the public chooses what they want to buy and sell. If Americans wishes to legalize, buy, and sell contraceptives, that is very unfortunate indeed (for reasons I will explain), but it is a free country. People will choose to do what they wish. But the choice of using artificial means of contraception is a negative and dangerous one, with many unforseen consequences.
For example, contraception destroys openess to vocations. The choice of our population to use artificial contraception has a direct link to the decrease in vocations to the priesthood and religious life. How so? There are many reasons why.
1. The act itself takes control of one’s life out of the hands of God, and places it in our hands (how’s that working out for us?). When a woman takes a pill to render herself infertile, she has rejected God’s vocation to motherhood, which the Creator imprinted on her body and soul. This is different than abstaining from sex during fertile days in the cycle, because no action has been taken to reject the body’s gift of motherhood – it has simply not been chosen to be used (and this is done after legitmate prayer and discernment by a couple). It’s one thing to discern how to use the gift of God, its another thing to reject it and change it. Contraception has created a culture against spiritual discernment and openess to life.
2. Families are smaller. While smaller families are not always a bad thing (and not every family needs to have 10 kids – again, this is something couples need to discern), larger families are willing to give 1 or 2 or more of their children to celibacy. It’s harder to do that when there is only one son to carry on the family legacy. This is a more practical reason.
3. Contraception is destroying families. It is really from the family that a vocation grows up. It is in families that men and women learn devotion, sacrifice, faith in God’s will, and community. Where will people learn these lessons, if not at home? Contraception literally puts a barrier between mother and father at the heart of their physical relationship. This puts other barriers in other parts of the relationship. As a result, family life loses its vitality. The weakening of family love is at the heart of most of the Church’s struggles, including lack of vocations.
4. Contraception leads people to live for sentimental pleasures and the accumulation of material wealth. If the object of your love is not God’s will, and the people whom God has given you to love, then what will it be? The heart has to find treasure somewhere. Contraception (along with its brother, pornography) traps people in an endless loop of selfishness. Again, there can be legitimate finacial reasons why smaller families or well-spaced births should be chosen by parents. But contraception is not the right means of achieving that aim. Contraception leads to self-centeredness, and that leads to a decline in vocations.
If we are to create a culture of vocations, we really need to re-consider our attitude towards contraception. Instead of questioning the reasons of the Church about sex and marriage, we should turn our scrutiny towards the world’s attitudes. We have had 50 years of contraception as the norm in our culture. We can see its fruits. One such fruit is less priests and less religious. If we want to live a life pleasing to God, we need to ask, “is that result pleasing to God?” Turning away from the pills and towards Natural Family Planning will go a long way towards reviving vocations in the Church.