In the days following last week’s post on contraception, I received a few Facebook messages about the nature of contraception. No one used those exact words, but it was the gist of most of their messages. The argument ran thus: if there is a connection between the Pill and cancer or between contraception and divorce, it’s a correlation, not a causation. My arguments are based on observations and are not scientifically proven. I can’t wholeheartedly condemn contraception because there could be a world where the Pill doesn’t cause an increase in cancer or divorce. It could very well be this world.
It was not originally my intention to write another post on contraception, but the amount of questions that I have received has demanded a response. I have personally responded to many of you, but I’d like to take a moment to discuss this question here on my blog. You deserve an answer, and there are a few things that I’d like to point out.
First of all, I don’t think the observations of seasoned psychologists need to be disregarded because they’ve never written a paper on the topic. There is some evidence for a connection between contraception and cancer, divorce, and marital problems, but for the most part, the people who are witnessing this problem first-hand aren’t able to write about it. Some of them are divorced themselves, or are infertile themselves, because of their time on the Pill, but they don’t have the credentials or the expertise to write a paper on the topic. And even those doctors and psychologists who have observed a connection are “discouraged” from presenting the findings of their research. I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret of the American Psychological Association (APA)- it has an agenda. And that agenda does not involve pushing data that suggests that contraception might be harmful to women’s health and marital relationships. Psychological studies need to be approved before they are published. They are reviewed for accuracy, yes, but they are also reviewed for content. And if the panel doesn’t approve of what is being published, it is within their power to reject it.
But even if this connection was just a correlation, even if it didn’t exist at all, I still don’t think we live in a world of the perfect contraceptive. Even if the Pill didn’t cause cancer (which it might), even if contraception wasn’t linked with an increased chance of divorce (which it does), it would still be hurting our society. It would still be hurting us.
Contraception is always going to be harmful because it defies the very definition of love. It defies who we are and what we are made for. Man is made for love. He is made to love and be loved. But what is love?
Let me begin by telling you what love is not. Love is not an emotion. It is not a feeling. That’s more properly called infatuation. And infatuation fades. It burns hot and quickly, and then it goes out. And what are you left with? A broken relationship.
Love is a choice. It is a commitment that is renewed everyday. It is a promise of forever. Love is a complete gift of yourself to the one you love. When you meet a couple who clearly love one another, they do not want to hold back from the other; they do not want to keep a part of themselves a secret from the other. Holding back causes pain. Secrets breed mistrust. And secrets and mistrust lead to divorce.
We were all made to love. We were all made for love. We were made to choose love, to commit ourselves to another person for the rest of our lives, to completely give ourselves to another person and to receive that person in return. The fullness of this love has a name. It is called marriage.
In marriage, we promise to love one another in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for rich or for poor, until death do us part. We are making a vow that cannot be broken. Human promises can be broken, but marriage has been given to us by God and He has blessed it. God has made it so that man can promise what he shouldn’t be able to give: his entire life, his whole self, his very being. He promises forever. He promises to be faithful. He promises to give the whole of himself.
In marriage, man is able to do what he always wanted, but couldn’t do on his own. No woman wants to be promised a day of fidelity. No man wants to receive part of his bride. A woman wants to be given forever. A man wants to receive the fullness of his bride. We are called to give all of ourselves in marriage, and God makes this gift possible. He also gives this gift in superabundance, calling man and woman to be co-creators with Him, to bring new life into this world. That is quite the magnificent calling. We are called to be like God, and we do that in our marriages. Makes you think twice about your marriage, right? It’s so much more than our culture gives it credit for.
Marriage is one of the two ways that God has given us to fulfill what it means to be human (the other is consecrated life). And what does it mean to be human? It means to love. And what does it mean to love? It means to give the whole of yourself forever. Sounds good, right?
It should be. It should be beautiful. But in our fallen state, we’ve gone to great lengths to destroy its beauty. We have been told that love has nothing to do with forever, so we accepted the lie of divorce. We have been told that love has nothing to do with procreation, so we accepted the lies of contraception and abortion. But love is supposed to be forever. Love is supposed to be fruitful.
Love is supposed to be forever. Who loves more- the person who promises a day or the one who promises a lifetime? What kind of confidence can you find in a relationship that could end tomorrow? Has that not always been the great comfort of marriage- knowing that you’ve been promised forever? Andrew and I loved one another before we were engaged, but I still felt an intense relief when I had a ring on my finger. That ring is a sign of his commitment to me. In just under three months, he will put another ring on my finger, and that ring will tell the world that he has promised me forever.
But modernity doesn’t know how to promise forever. Sure, the wedding vows have stayed the same. We still promise “until death do us part,” but we don’t actually believe that it’s always possible. Sure, 50% of people will be lucky and will stay together for life, but they’re just that- lucky. And what does that suggest? That we no longer believe that marriage is meant to last forever. The ones who stay together for life are lucky. Life-long fidelity is no longer the norm. We want forever when we promise it at our weddings, but what ever happened to not making promises that you won’t be able to keep? Divorce is a broken promise.
In some ways, modernity is right- we can’t make a promise of forever by ourselves. Only God enables us to promise forever, but modernity has no room for God.
Love is supposed to be forever. It’s also supposed to be fruitful. Love that is turned in on itself quickly becomes selfishness. Love that is turned in on itself will not survive. The all-consuming power of love will consume itself if it is not opened up to the world. Love is not supposed to end at two. It is supposed to be life-giving. We have been given the ability to make our love visible. Our love can take form. The love of man and wife can become a third. Their love can give life, a life of laughter and love. We call that love a child.
Openness to life is one of the ways that man is called to image God. God has given each of us life, and He wanted to give us the opportunity to co-create with Him. We have been given the ability to give birth to life as well. We have been called to participate in the love of God, the love of a Father and Son that is so strong that it has a name: the Holy Spirit. Family life is a call to be like God. Family life is a call to fulfillment. Man has been made for love, but we don’t know what love is anymore.
In the end, there might not be millions of studies demonstrating how contraception hurts marriage, but there is plenty of experience that shows us that this is the truth. It might not have been documented, but it has been witnessed. Contraception defies the truth of humanity. It prevents man from satisfying what he has been created for. It perverts love and often breeds selfishness. Is it any wonder that it causes marital discord, that it leads to divorce? We dream of a world where contraception does not cause cancer, does not cause divorce. We might discover that we live in a world where contraception does not cause cancer, but I am confident that we will always live in a world where contraception causes marital discord and divorce. Man was made to love and be loved, and contraception inevitably prevents him from doing that. It is no wonder that divorce is so rampant, that children die unwanted and unloved before they can even take their first breath. We have broken the first commandment that God gave us, “Be fertile and multiply” (Genesis 1:28).
But it was not a commandment against our nature. He commanded it because He made us and He knows what will fulfill us as human beings. And we should not forget that God blessed us when He gave this command. Children were never meant to be a burden; they have always been a blessing from God, a gift from heaven. As long as we continue to reject this command and this gift, man will never be truly satisfied. Man will not be fulfilled until he finally admits the truth- there is no such thing as the perfect contraceptive, in this world or in any.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!