One must look at the underlying reasoning for the why the Catholic Church opposes contraception and abortion to really try to understand and appreciate their side of the argument without jumping to conclusions. Because, often in today’s world we are too quick to jump to conclusions and therefore never get clarity on a subject. Therefore we only see darkness in a tunnel where in fact there is light at the end. So I ask you to hear me out and not jump to conclusions halfway through reading this post.
Remember I love comments and opinions but be respectful and thoughtful cause I know this is a heated issue.
What does the fact that our culture even needs contraception say about our moral standards, that we are actively determined to artificially prevent life from being born into this world? I think of it this way. There are solutions that solve problems and then there are solutions that, on the surface, appear to solve a problem but really all they do is allow the problem to fester while getting rid of an unwanted consequence of that problem. Contraception negates the consequence of unwanted pregnancy but it allows the underlying problem to fester and perpetuate. That underlying problem is the moral state of our society and that is what the Catholic Church is concerned about and why it opposes the use of contraception for birth control. Now, let me clarify what I mean by “moral state” by posing a series of questions, “What do we, as human beings value more? Is it life? Is it love? Is it our fellow human being?…..Or is it pleasure? Is it our own self-satisfaction?” Because these are the fundamental questions at the center of this argument. The people’s belief in the right to individual choice has become such an integral aspect of the way we think in this twenty-first century and it is no different on the issues of contraception and abortion. But when do we ever stop to think of the common good? When do we ever stop for a moment of self-reflection and stop worrying about individual choice long enough to think about how our choices affect others? Because the fact is the freedom and happiness we get from loving each other is more fulfilling and more meaningful than the freedom we perceive as getting from being able to make individual choices based only on what we want without any concern for others. Humans live in an interconnected community, but we so often like to think of ourselves as living in individual spheres of influence where our choices have no cumulative effect on the rest of society. That’s why poverty exists. That’s why there is inequality in society. That’s why one percent of people control 25% of wealth in this country. That’s why the Occupy movement began. That’s why we had the 2009 financial collapse. Well that is a patently false notion. The right to free choice does not preclude responsibility to others. In the papal encyclical, issued in 2009, entitled Caritas in Veritate:On Integral Human Development in Charity and Truth, Pope Benedict XVI says this,
“An overemphasis on rights leads to a disregard for duties. Duties set a limit on rights because they point to the anthropological and ethical framework of which rights are a part, in this way ensuring that they do not become license. Duties thereby reinforce rights and call for their defence and promotion as a task to be undertaken in the service of the common good.”
Rights are not just there for the taking. They come with the responsibility to act within an ethical framework. Now what does this mean regarding contraception? Well Pope Benedict XVI explains,
“The Church, in her concern for man’s authentic development, urges him to have full respect for human values in the exercise of his sexuality. It can not be reduced merely to pleasure or entertainment, nor can sex education be reduced to technical instruction aimed solely at protecting the interested parties from possible disease or the “risk” of procreation. This would be to impoverish and disregard the deeper meaning of sexuality, a meaning which needs to be acknowledged and responsibly appropriated not only by the individuals but also by the community. It is irresponsible to view sexuality merely as a source of pleasure, and likewise to regulate it through strategies of mandatory birth control. In either case materialistic ideas and policies are at work, and individuals are ultimately subjected to various forms of violence.
When we accept contraception as a necessity and a right in our lives, we are perpetuating a cycle, in which through the exercise of our sexuality we let it be known that pleasure is our first priority and our respect for human values is always secondary to that pleasure. It’s an even more serious issue but none too different with abortion. The individual pleasure gotten from sex is more important than the procreation to the point where procreation is viewed as a risk rather than a gift? When did we become so materialistic? When did we become so self absorbed that we deem it justifiable to kill a fetus, a developing life with a future in this world, for the sake of preserving carnal pleasure? Where does it stop? How many times? How many times are we permitted to unilaterally end a life?
Now, then one might bring up the question of whether abortion is justified in the case of rape. I remain steadfast in saying that abortion remains unjustified even in such terrible circumstances and here’s why. Rape is an act of blatant disregard for human life and human dignity. It is meant to cause pain and suffering. It is a horrific act born out of pure selfishness and insatiable desire for power and influence. And I realize that it is the impulse of the mother to say she doesn’t want a child conceived from rape. But just consider this. When the mother makes that decision to abort, is she not showing that same disregard for human life and human dignity that her attacker showed for her? Now I know people are going to jump all over me and say “How can you compare a rapist to a mother who wants to abort?” Now I am not saying that the motivations for both are the same and clearly the motivations of a rapist are born out of such an evil and distorted mindset that it is impossible and absurd to compare them in that respect. But I ask you to look at the end results of both actions. One life is scarred and damaged forever and one is ended. Two lives are ruined and one is not even given a chance. Where is the morality in that? Where is the morality in arbitrarily deciding that because I suffered another life must suffer as well. Violence begets violence. Abortion is a form of violence and it just continues a cycle of violence that began with the rape. That’s my point here. Contraception and abortion are just more cogs in a cycle that promote immorality over morality, that promote the sanctity of personal choice over the sanctity of life.
Now I know people will say, “Who are you to decide what is moral and immoral?” I will answer that it is not me who is making the decision. Consider this. Every human beings have moral feelings termed a conscience. But no matter how much of a moral relativist you may claim to be, you moral sense does not end with your conscience. We also have moral standards by which we evaluate others that Timothy Keller in his book, The Reason for God, terms” moral obligation” and defines as “the belief that some things ought not to be done regardless of how a person feels about them within himself or herself, regardless of what the rest of the community and cultures says, and regardless of whether it is in his or her self-interest or not.” (Keller 147). Now let me give you a scenario. If you are going to be a moral relativist and say that it is the mother’s free choice to abort her baby and no one can make that decision for her, than you have no ground on which you can stand and say, “I oppose female genital mutilation” “I oppose the practice of not allowing women to drive cars in Saudi Arabia.” I oppose the practice that every time women leave their homes in Saudi Arabia they must be accompanied by a male family member.”, to just name a few cross cultural practices. Why can’t you? Because even though you know in your heart, even though you know at a basic, moral level that these practices are inherently wrong because they strip the human being of all dignity and respect and freedom you are still willing to defend your own cultural practice which does the exact same thing. Think about it. You are setting a double standard when you are saying, “I am a moral relativist.” Nobody is a true moral relativist, because morality is transcendent. Morality transcends cultures. Universal moral standards do exist whether you admit or not because feeling a sense of moral obligation is part of being human. And the reason we often don’t want to admit it is because it’s, in our own selfish interest not to or because we have this perverse view of freedom like in the case of abortion. I said before that with freedom comes responsibility and that responsibility is to our fellow human being. The freedom to abort a fetus is much different from the freedom of allowing women to leave their houses without a male accompaniment or drive a car. The latter is a freedom that properly respects the human being and recognizes her inalienable rights and dignity. The former takes away our most basic right……the right to life.
Is not the first right of the human person whether he or she is a fetus, a fertilized egg, one year old, ten years old, or 60 years old…….is not that first right the right to his or her life? Life is not a privilege that someone can bestow upon you or take away from you. Life is a gift, first and foremost, and it is what we do with that life that matters in this world.
Now a lot of people ask the question, “Well where do you draw the line? Where does life begin?” People like to make this question seem like such a hard question to answer. And I’m not speaking from the mouthpiece of the Catholic Church here. I’m speaking from common sense. I’m speaking from fact. It begins at conception. It begins when the sperm fertilizes the egg. Why? Because barring a medical tragedy, that fertilized egg will mature into a human being. To try to have this “debate” is like saying that the development from a fertilized egg to a fetus to a born child is any different from a 1 year old developing into a 3 year old developing into a ten year old. There is life at every stage. The biological condition of life at each stage may be different but they are all life nonetheless.