One of the more shocking aspects of my journey into Catholicism is that I pretty quickly came to agree with the Church’s stance on contraception. Considering that I did not plan to have children at all just five or six years ago, that’s a big change of heart.
The first time I visited our parish I saw a little flyer posted in the parish hall that showed two different plants as symbols of the pro-life and pro-choice worldviews. The former was blossoming and alive, the latter was wilting and dying. [UPDATE: Here’s a PDF of the flyer.] The illustrations linked the use of contraception to all sorts of evils in the world, not just the obvious ones like euthanasia and abortion. When I first saw it I thought it was interesting but also quite a stretch. My thought was that the Church was taking their hangup about contraception way too far and exaggerating to try to scare people into agreeing with them.
But in the past few months of researching and thinking about it I came to see that, whaddayaknow, the 2, 000-year-old Catholic Church had more insight into the issue than I did. Case in point was simply thinking about my married life with vs. without artificial contraception. I quickly saw how radically differently I’d live my life depending on which route I choose:
Using contraception puts me in the mentality of what’s convenient for me, what the limit of kids is that I can have and meet my financial goals and remain firmly implanted in my middle-class lifestyle. It makes it easy to prioritize my personal desires over that of my children since I feel in control of when I’ll be “free, ” when my youngest child goes to school. Whereas forgoing contraception puts me in a totally different mindset. I rearrange my life and goals based on being a mother and meeting my children’s needs since I’m not sure when we’ll be “done”; talk and planning for the things I’ll do that are all about me once my all kids are in school takes a back seat since I have no idea when that will happen. And, most important, it forces me not to make material things/lifestyle a priority in my life. I’ll have to rearrange my finances based on the number of children I have, not vice versa.
And I can also see how these differing mentalities ripple through society as well. Mark Steyn explains it better than I could (though he’s specifically talking about abortion here I think a similar case can be made for the widespread use of contraception):
One consequence of abortion is that, in designating new life a matter of “choice, ” it made it easier to make judgments about which lives are worth it and which aren’t…But it’s foolish to think you can raise entire populations to make self-interested judgments about who lives and who doesn’t and expect them to remain confined to three trimesters. The “right to choose” is now being extended beyond the womb: the step from convenience conception to convenience euthanasia is a short one, and the step from convenience euthanasia to compulsory euthanasia shorter still.
All that said, choosing to forego the use of contraception is tough. Not just physically and financially, but socially I feel like a fish out of water. In my entire social network I only know one other person who is open to having a big family and uses NFP over artificial contraception. Even the few Catholics I know who seem to take their faith pretty seriously and go to Mass every Sunday have all made nonchalant comments that indicate they plan to use contraception to limit the size of their families.
Being brand new to the Church, I can’t quite get a read on where the average Catholic is on this. I live in a really liberal city so I can’t tell if that’s what’s going on or if the average American Catholic just doesn’t take the issue all that seriously anymore. Not that it affects whether or not that’s the route I’ll choose with my family, but I’m just curious to get a pulse on where other Catholics stand.
What do you guys think about all this? Is the use of contraception *that* bad? Do most Catholics seem to be OK with limiting the size of their families these days?
[I hope it’s clear that I’m not passing judgment at all on people, Catholic or not, who use contraception. I’m just think it’s an interesting issue and am trying to get a read on where other Catholics stand.]
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