The following was written on 10/22/2000 and appeared in the Pacific Voice. It was not well received.
The current advent of RU486 on our shores and the upcoming March For Life caused me to think of an article I wrote last year entitled The Evil Beyond Abortion. The evil I wrote about was the practice of contraception. The point of the article was my view that all our efforts against abortion are meaningless without equal efforts against the use of birth control. I posited that abortion is just a more radical form of birth control and is really “the child” (bloody pun intended) of the contraceptive mentality.
In the recent movie U-571 a submarine captain, pursued by a depth charge-dropping enemy ship, shoots a load of garbage out of a torpedo tube in order to create a debris field. He hopes the debris will trick the enemy captain into thinking that he has already hit his mark. The ship’s captain takes the bait and goes to investigate. Meanwhile the sub capitalizes on the distraction and maneuvers to fire its last remaining torpedo at the ship. The tactic works and the sub wins.
I can’t help but think that the Devil is quite pleased with all of our pro-life marches and protests. That’s right, “pleased”. In our fight against abortion the Evil One seems to have succeeded in allowing the debris field of dead and dissected babies to distract us while he maneuvers for a more pervasive and effective evil. For if the Devil’s end is to deny God souls, future citizens of heaven, then contraception is obviously a much more effective means.
So, in my imaginings. the Devil allows us our small, feel-good victories, and he smiles at our marches, sidewalk protests, and our weekly Pro-Life Prayer at Sunday Mass because he knows that many if not most of the pro-life legions and people in the pews are using some form of birth control. How do I know? What’s my evidence? It’s called “family size”. Have Catholics suddenly become naturally infertile in the last 20 years? I don’t think so.
It’s not often that we hear the subject addressed so for those who don’t know the exact teaching on the issue here is a section from Humane Vitae which I believe encapsulates the whole document:
“... the Church, calling men back to the observance of the norms of the natural law, as interpreted by their constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marriage act (quilibet matrimonii usus) must remain open to the transmission of life.
In conformity with these landmarks in the human and Christian vision of marriage, we must once again declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun, and, above all, directly willed and procured abortion, even if for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as licit means of regulating birth.
Equally to be excluded, as the teaching authority of the Church has frequently declared, is direct sterilization, whether perpetual or temporary, whether of the man or of the woman.
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.
I don’t believe Humanae Vitae is up for debate. Near as I can tell it was a binding pronouncement. As the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano pointed out in an editorial in 1968 soon after the release of Paul VI’s Humane Vitae: “When the Pope, with his authority derived from Christ, has made a pronouncement on a definite question over which theologians are divided, it is irrelevant to consider the numbers of eventual supporters, or the force of their arguments.”
But, and of course this is just further imaginings on my part, where I think the Devil has his most fun is with Catholics who actually think that they can avoid the Humane Vitae radar because they use Church-approved NFP. Yes, Natural Family Planning is approved, but ask how many couples who use it actually know that: “...observing the non-fertile periods alone can be lawful only under a moral aspect, and that to avoid children always and deliberately without an extremely serious reason would be "a sin against the very meaning of marriage." (Pius XII-"Address to the Italian Catholic Union of Midwives" to warn against the selfish use of natural family planning, Oct 29, 1951)
It all comes back to this thorny question of obedience. If legitimate magisterial authority has proclaimed a teaching, can we disobey? Can we re-interpret based on our personal circumstances? I don’t think so. But again, I’m open to correction by those more in the know than I am. I only ask that the same level of documentation that I am providing validate their corrections.