Friday, July 25, 2008

Contraception: four prophecies

He [Pope Paul VI] said, for instance, that universal acceptance of contraception would have the social consequence of creating men who had lost all respect for women. No longer caring for “her physical and psychological equilibrium,” men will come to “the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.” In any great social movement, what’s cause and what’s effect is always hard to figure out, but, at the very least, all you have to do is sign on to the Internet to see that this much is true: Widespread access to birth control certainly didn’t bring us the end of pornography and the objectification of women’s bodies.

Paul VI predicted, as well, that the institution of marriage would have trouble surviving “the conjugal infidelity” that contraception makes easy. Far from strengthening marriage as the Supreme Court seems to have imagined, the advent of birth control left marriage in tatters, as the sexual revolution roared through town. If many more people use contraception today than they used to—and do so certainly with less shame—then why have divorce, abortion, out-of-wedlock pregnancies, and venereal disease done nothing but increase since 1968?

Humanae Vitae added that the general acceptance of contraception would put a “dangerous weapon” in the hands of “those public authorities who take no heed of moral exigencies.” And, from forced abortions in China to involuntary sterilizations in Peru, non-democratic governments have seen that there aren’t many steps between allowing people to limit birth and forcing them to.

Finally, the pope warned that contraception would lead people to picture their bodies as somehow possessions, rather than as their actual being. If a woman can paint her house, then why shouldn’t she get her nose bobbed and her breasts blown up with silicon to the size of beachballs? It’s what men seem to like, after all, and the body is just a thing, isn’t it?

Well, no, the body isn’t just a thing. The universal acceptance of contraception changed not just our behavior but the way that we think. It created a chasm between sex and procreation, and into that chasm fell social good after social good. You can’t say Paul VI didn’t warn us.

From Joseph Bottum's article at First Things today. That is perhaps the most significant damage, that we "...picture [their] bodies as somehow possessions, rather than as [their] actual being." As ever, the present corruption we experience (divorce, abortion, pornographic culture, paedophilia etc.) starts from a very 'simple' division that occurred in the past. You seperate pro-creation from sex, in a manner that pointedly disrupts and changes the in-built purpose, meaning and gift of the conjugal act; that division extends by consequence to your very perception of your own body, and hence, the bodies of others. Really, there is no end to the chain of divisions. And, as stated in the article, it ultimately changes the way we think.

Why have we been so blinded to how radical a gift sex is? Like all radical gifts given to us by God, there is a precious sharing in his creation; something which He entrusts to us, out of sheer love. It is this sacred character of the gift that makes it entirely vulnerable; and not just vulnerable in a passive sense, but something about it that contains a living picture of our being - and when it is attacked, our being is attacked.

What is horrific about it, is that it has taken place down the years in tandem with material gain and comfort; the idealism of mediocrity, which poses as normalcy.

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