Our Gravest Moral Responsibility
To Convert the Contraception Mentality
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
It must seem strange to call anything our gravest moral responsibility.
There are so many moral problems in the world today. How can any one of them
pose our gravest responsibility. But so it is. In my judgment, the contraception
mentality is the single deepest issue facing Western society.
I call it the contraception mentality. But we could just as well call it the
contraception ideology. It was centuries in the making. It is devastating
in its consequences. And it is at the root of the massive assault on the human
family. Nothing less is at stake than the survival of Western, and with emphasis,
What is the Contraceptive Mentality?
The contraceptive mentality is the philosophy which claims that contraception
is not morally wrong. It can even be morally good, for the welfare of those
who practice contraception and for the welfare of the human race.
Immediately we must distinguish between two
classes of people who defend contraception: the non-Christian world that has
not been touched by the moral principles of historic Christianity, and those
who profess to be Christians yet find nothing objectively wrong in the practice
The Non-Christian World. Contrary to public
opinion, contraception is not a modern innovation. It was practiced since the
dawn of recorded history.
A single listing of books and monographs in
Himes Medical History of Contraception gives over twelve hundred titles
of scholarly works in English and German alone, excluding a dozen bibliographies
of bibliographies on contraceptive customs through the ages.
As you study this phenomenon, one thing becomes clear. No doubt the practice
of contraception is as old as the human race. But only within the last century
do we find any organized, planned effort to, quotes, help the masses to acquire
a knowledge of contraception. This development of whole nations into contraceptive
cultures is one of the achievements of the communications media.
It was the rise of the Christian religion that
gave the first large-scale impetus to checking a practice that historians show
has been universal when, where, and insofar as the basic principles of Christian
morality were inoperative.
Conversely the pressure of a strong Christian witness since the earliest times,
served as a brake on what the Ephesian gynecologist Soranos (A.D. 98-138), who
also approved abortion, considered a general custom among the Mediterranean
people of his day. He gave no less than seventeen medically approved methods
of contraception (atokion - motherlessness). His argument was that it
is safer for the mother to prevent conception from taking place than to destroy,
what was called the fetus, already conceived.
As long as Christian moral principles were still respected, contraception was
not only frowned upon, but even forbidden by the civil. This was the case in
the United States.
The best known person associated with anticonceptionist legislation was Anthony
Comstock (1844-1915), a Protestant social leader. As an active member of the
Young Mens Christian Association (Y.M.C.A.), he secured New York State and
Federal laws against obscene matter, and to this day his name is associated
with the Comstock Law which the American Congress passed in 1873 forbidding
the dissemination by mail of contraceptive information.
Up to ten years imprisonment was provided for violation of the section on mailing
contraceptive devices or directives, with lesser penalties for other pro-contraceptive
acts. As late as 1918, the Comstock Law was enforced against Margaret Sanger, the feminist crusader for the abolition of all restrictions against artificial
By the turn of the present century, the attitude began to change. In one country
after another, the clandestine practice became public knowledge. The first
international birth control congress was held in Paris in 1900. In 1901 the
Malthusian League, with the avowed purpose of promoting contraception, was organized
in Bohemia, followed by similar groups in Belgium (1906), Switzerland (1908),
and Sweden (1911). In 1912, Dr. Abraham Jacobi, Jewish immigrant from Germany,
became the first president of the American Medical Association to espouse contraception.
He took the occasion of his inaugural address to make the break-through.
Christian Reaction. With the
increased publicity and growing practice of contraception, the Christian churches
were called upon to declare themselves.
The Catholic and Orthodox bodies came out strongly against artificial birth
control. In 1930 Pope Pius XI published the encyclical on Christian marriage.
He stated that those who interfere with normal conception are openly departing
from the Christian teaching which has been handed down from the beginning.
Until the opening of the Second World War, the Orthodox position was also clearly
prohibitive. It was assumed that contraception was wrong, and writers made
only passing reference to the Eastern Christian tradition which universally
reprobated the practice. Already at the Council of Nicea (325), men who sterilized
themselves were not to be ordained, or if ordained and married, were to cease
functioning as priests. Sts. John Chrysostom, Epiphanius, and Cyril of Alexandria
among the Fathers of the Church were cited as witnesses to the Christian teaching.
Contraception was officially banned by Protestant Churches until the first
quarter of the twentieth century. In 1920 the Lambeth Conference warned all
Anglicans against the use of unnatural means of avoiding conception.
Ten years later, Lambeth changed its position to say that, If there is a good
moral reason why the way of abstinence should not be followed, we cannot condemn
the use of scientific methods for preventing conception which are thoughtfully
and conscientiously adopted. By 1958 the Anglican Conference raised the practice
of contraception to the dignity of Christian virtue since the number and frequency
of children has been laid by God on the consciences of parents everywhere.
Summary Analysis. Already before
the end of the second millennium, it is simply assumed in much of the modern
world that contraception is not only justified but actually prescribed by the
moral law. The grounds for this widespread mentality, as we call it are mainly
the professed priority of each persons conscience.
Conscience has been redefined to mean each
persons own free will, independent of an objective divine law which teaches
our minds what is morally right or wrong.
Devastation by the Contraceptive Mentality
Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae identifies
no less than nine devastating effects resulting from the contraceptive mentality.
I will simply identify these consequences without commenting:
- Conjugal infidelity
- Debasing of all standards of human morality.
- Lowering of respect for women and of womans dignity.
- State legislation against human fertility.
- Desecration of the holiness of marital intimacy.
- Breakdown of personal responsibility.
- Cultivation of selfish individuality.
- Destruction of the family as the foundation of civilized society.
- Promotion of an utterly materialistic understanding of human existence.
Each one of these products of contraceptive ideology would be enough to explain
what we see happening in the modern world. This ideology is a self-idolatry
that should be called the New Paganism. The old paganism was polytheistic,
a belief in many deities - gods and goddesses. The new paganism is monotheistic.
There is faith in only one god but this god is the independent and autonomous
Ego who is responsible to no one except Himself.
No wonder the so-called New Age movement is pervading countries like our own.
At the core of the New Age is the Oriental non-Christian belief that there is
only one deity, called Brahman. What we call the soul, these Orientals call
Atman, the Self. Our destiny after many reincarnations is to discover that
Atman is Brahman. This is Nirvana.
Our Catholic Responsibility
The Title of this talk is, Our Gravest Moral
Responsibility is to Convert the Contraceptive Mentality.
This is not symbolic language. It is stark reality. We Catholics are in possession
of the fulness of truth. Truth, we know is conformity of the mind with reality.
The millions of our contemporaries who believe in contraception are living in
a dream world of unreality.
This dream world is being fostered by the modern
media of communication, which Marshall McLuen correctly said, are engaged in
a Luciferian conspiracy against the truth.
For five years, I was on the faculty of a state university, teaching Catholic
theology. When I finished my tenure I published a book, entitled, The Hungry
Generation. The more than 2,000 students, mainly non-Catholic and
even non-Christian, taught me something I want to share with you.
The people of our country are starving for the truth. They are hungering for
the only food that can nourish the human mind, which is the truth.
Over the years, I have defined peace of mind
as the experience of knowing the truth.
On these premises, we see that the contraceptive
mentality is only tragic symptoms of a deeper malady - which is starvation for
What is our Catholic responsibility? It is painfully obvious.
- Our duty is to know the truth revealed by Christ
and taught by His Church.
- Our duty is to live the truth, as Christ who
is Truth Incarnate showed us by His life on earth how we are to live in this
passing world of space and time.
- Our duty is to defend the truth, because we
realize how disastrous are the consequences of error and how blessed are the
fruits of possessing the truth.
- Our duty is to share the truth with others,
because this is the highest practice of charity, on which our salvation depends.
- Our duty is to suffer for the truth. We are to rejoice as Christ tells us
when people oppose us, criticize us, speak all kinds of calumny against us -
in a word - when we are persecuted for proclaiming the truth which God, who
is Truth, became man to reveal. Our Lord, Truth Incarnate, was crucified for
proclaiming in Palestine.
The contraceptive mentality is a challenge to our zeal to re-evangelize a paganized
America. Christ will use us as channels of His grace in this massive task of
conversion on one condition: that we are willing to live a martyrs life and,
if need be, die a martyrs death for the salvation of our beloved country; salvation
in time and a heavenly eternity. Amen.
Copyright © 1998 Inter Mirifica