In the August/September issue of First Things , Mary Eberstadt incisively discusses the ” Vindication of Humanae Vitae ,” noting that among the harmful consequences of the contraceptive culture was the Protestantespecially Anglicancollapse. Before 1930, no Christian Church permitted the use of contraception, but that year’s Lambeth Conference, with its approval of contraceptive intercourse, was the beginning of the end. “If a church cannot tell its flock ‘what to do with my body,’ as the saying goes, with regard to contraception,” writes Eberstadt, “then other uses of that body will quickly prove to be similarly off-limits to ecclesiastical authority.” In short, homosexuality and sexual promiscuity willand didquickly follow.
It is worth noting that the link between contraception and the decay of sexual ethics was not first noticed by Eberstadt, nor by Pope Paul VI. With firm conviction, Pope Pius XI wrote Casti Connubi in December 1930, but the Catholic Church was hardly alone in it criticism. There was, for example, this editorial written in the Washington Post on March 22, 1931, immediately following the approval of the Lambeth resolution by the Federal Council of Churches in America. Anglican bishop Charles Gore does not falter, and, though few today would approve, his arguments have proven far too prophetic:
It is impossible to reconcile the doctrine of the divine Institution of marriage with any modernistic plan for the mechanical regulation or suppression of human birth. The church must either reject the plain teachings of the Bible of reject schemes for the “scientific” production of human souls. Carried to it’s logical conclusion, the committee’s report if carried into effect would sound the death-knell of marriage as a holy institution, by establishing degrading practices which would encourage indiscriminate immorality. The suggestion that the use of legalized contraceptives would be “careful and restrained” is preposterous.
It is the misfortune of the churches that they are too often misused by visionaries for the promotion of the “reforms” in fields foreign to religion. The departures from Christian teachings are astounding in many cases, leaving the beholder aghast at the willingness of some churches to discard the ancient injunction to teach “Christ and Him crucified.” If the churches are to become organizations for political and “scientific” propaganda they should be honest and reject the Bible, scoff at Christ as an obsolete and unscientific teacher, and strike out boldly as champions of politics and science as modern substitutes for the old-time religion.
We often hear about the vocations crisis for ordained ministry and consecrated life. As a friend recently pointed out to me, we have today a major vocations crisis for marriage, too. If Eberstadt, Bishop Gore, the Vatican, and two millennia of Christian tradition are correct, contraception and the marital crisis are inextricably linked.