ily Planning method of birth control. For more in- formation on this issue, contact their website at www.billingsnaturalfamilyplanning.org.
Negative Consequences of a Contraceptive Mentality
When Pope Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae (On Hu- man Life) in 1968, he warned of “grave conse- quences” that would follow if the use of contra- ceptives became widespread. Now forty+ years later, we can look back and see if the Pope might have had an eye into the future.
Hardly anyone would deny that there has been a widespread decline in sexual morality in the past forty years. All we have to do is look at the increase in the number of divorces, abortions, out-of-wedlock pregnancies and sexually-related diseases.
Of course, it would be wrong to say that contra- ception is the only cause of this decline, but it would also be a grave error to think that the widespread use of contraception has nothing to do with the decline in sexual morality. The easy availability of contra- ceptives has led teenagers and adults to believe that they can engage in non-marital sex “responsibly.” Popular wisdom supposes that the easy availability of contraceptives would protect teenagers and young adults from becoming pregnant which, in turn, would decrease the number of abortions. The fact is that easy access to contraceptives has done the exact opposite. As the number and proportion of teenage family planning clinics increase, so do the number of teenage pregnancies and abortions.
Writing on the connection between the widespread use of contraceptives, abortion and non-marital sex, Janet Smith, Professor of Ethics at Sacred Heart Ma- jor Seminary in Detroit, states: Most abortions are the result of unwanted pregnancies; most unwanted pregnancies are the result of sexual relationships outside marriage; and most sexual relationships outside of marriage are facilitated by the availability of contraception. To turn the “progression” around: contraception leads to an increase in non-marital sex; an increase in non-marital sex leads to more unwanted pregnancies; more unwanted pregnancies lead to more abortions. Not many women intend to use abortion as a “back-up” to failed contraception, but it is often undeniably used for just that purpose (The Catholic World Report, July 1993).
Pause: Why do so few couples today embrace the Church’s teaching on natural family planning? Should parishes be doing more to promote natural family planning?
In Vitro Birth Methods (C 2375-2379, USC p. 409)
Some couples have physical problems that prevent normal conception or childbirth, and yet they deeply desire to have a child together. The question arises: does the desire for children have any limits? Do par- ents have a right to have a child in any way possi- ble? This question has become very real since bio- medical research has discovered new ways of con- ceiving outside the womb. This fast-changing tech- nology bypasses the normal conception process by taking a woman’s egg and a man’s sperm and join- ing them together in a laboratory dish. Sometimes the egg and sperm belong to a married couple, some- times not. Other couples hire or use a donor womb or surrogate mother to carry and bring about a new life. What does the Church have to say about all this?
The Church is very sympathetic towards couples who are trying to conceive but are unable to do so. For their sake, it is very important that biomedical research continue to find ways to reduce human infertility and to discover new ways to treat cou- ples who are unable to conceive. Such research is encouraged by the Church. After all, the father of genetics, George Mendel, was a Catholic priest.
When it comes to the procreation, a basic Catholic principle is that children are a gift from God; they are not owed to the couple. The couple has no right to a child; the child is the one who possesses genuine rights: the right “to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his/her par- ents,” and the right “to be respected as a person from the moment of his/her conception.” So, if we apply this principle to our practice of medicine, what can we do to help infertile couples? We are encouraged to support methods that assist the marital act to achieve conception, not methods that replace the marital act.
Addressing the use of reproductive technology to help couples to have a child, Thomas Wenski, former Bishop of Orlando, writes: “Science, if it is to truly serve humanity, cannot separate itself from the demands of ethics: the ends do not justify the means. The process of in vitro fertilization very frequently involves the deliberate destruction of embryos. Some 80 percent of embryos produced artificially are sacrificed in efforts to secure suc- cessful implantation. Each embryo, however, is an individual human being and not just simply a mass of cells to be used, selected or discarded. Pope John Paul II observed: “The various techniques of