As we come closer to the November elections and the preceding debates among the candidates for the presidency of the United States in November, many arguments are being put for (not for the first time) about certain issues that should be of the utmost importance, first of all, for Catholics, and even for every person gifted with an intellect and free will. Sadly, these issues are given minimal significance or even are altogether sidetracked by most of the media. But, given what we evidence in so much of the media these days, are you really surprised?
Liberal news commentators and various social critics are saying that there are more important issues than these so-called “Catholic” issues. Even priests of the “liberal” persuasion are abandoning the solid theology of their formative years in the seminary and are ready to jump on the “social issues” band wagon (or bus) in order to curry favor with politicians who dare to identify themselves as Catholic. [Or, as in my case, the (unjust) accusation of not teaching about the Catholic Church’s stance on these vital issues. Anyone who reads all my articles could readily avoid such rash judgments.]
Is it any wonder, then, that in a modern, secular society, there is a common belief that the Church should “update” her moral teachings and make them more “relevant?” Some ask why does the Church hold on to her so-called outdated teachings such as abortion, contraception, same-sex unions, and divorce, among many others?
Pope St. John Paul II explained in Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth), which was his encyclical on the moral teachings of the Catholic Church, the Church derives her moral teachings from Christ himself. So, she is not at liberty to change them when and just because society itself, often capriciously, changes, for Christ gave these teachings and teaching authority to the Church for all time.
As St. John Paul II explains in another encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), “Among all the crimes which can be committed against life, procured abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable. The Second Vatican Council defines abortion, together with infanticide, as an ‘unspeakable crime.'”
While many in society say that the infant within the womb is merely a “clump of cells,” the Church has always believed that life begins at conception. Each and every life has dignity because it is a gift from God, and the innocent child within the womb deserves to be respected and protected against any danger. Therefore, the Church firmly teaches that abortion is the killing of an innocent child and cannot be tolerated. The Church, in her mercy, recognizes the deep pain and trauma that abortion causes to women, men, and families, and offers hope and healing to those struggling after having an abortion.
It’s not surprising, then, that the issue of (artificial means of) contraception is so intimately linked with abortion. It may come as a surprise to some that contraception was actually legalized nationwide by the Supreme Court in Griswold v. Connecticut; in 1965, eight years before Roe v. Wade (1973) legalized abortion. The legalization of contraception necessarily guarantees the legalization of abortion. Why is this the case? Contraception, among other things, deceives a woman’s body to think that she is pregnant, even though she is not. Because of that, it can prevent implantation, turning into an abortifacient. Sometimes, however, contraception doesn’t work as expected, and allows for implantation, resulting in pregnancy. Those who are seriously attempting to prevent pregnancy often, then, have recourse to abortion. In other words, then, abortion is the answer when the contraception fails.
Pope St. Paul VI’s controversial 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae, was actually the first papal encyclical to condemn the use of contraception. In this document, the pope argued for both the unitive and procreative ends of marriage: each marital act must be open to life if it is to truly bring the couple together. But, contraception frustrates this act because the couple is withholding fertility from each other. However, Natural Family Planning (NFP) promotes the openness to life and respect for the couple’s fertility that is in accord with the dignity given by God. This is not the often-mocked “rhythm” method, but a scientifically defined way of working with nature as it courses its way through our human bodies, and finding a healthy, suitable and moral solution to the question of how to deal with the sacredness of human life in the womb. For more information on NFP, please go to the USCCB website and read all about its use and effectiveness. You may really be surprised!