No. I am not going to write about artificial contraception in the terms of natural law or the attitude of the Church, as confirmed in Humanae Vitae. I want to look at it as a phenomenon. Throughout the whole history of the human race the possibility of pregnancy has controlled the use of sexual intercourse and led to the confining of its practice to marriage or, at least, to a long-term formal relationship. The strict punishments applied to those who broke the rules were understandably harsh, particularly for the poor. By the 20th century, methods of contraception were being broadly used. They tended to be crude and often unreliable. Most importantly, they were primarily controlled by males. In practice, females had to depend on their partners being responsible, and were often ill served.
Then came the 1960s and the ‘pill’. At last there was a reliable and convenient method, and, importantly, one which was under the control of the female. Given that this was a change in a most fundamental element of homo sapiens, not surprisingly over time society changed. And it is still changing.
While, at the biological level, intercourse may remain the ‘marriage act’, and is so used by married people, the connection is weakened. It can range from casual sexual physicality to compassionate romance. Our young millennials accept without further thought that living together as though they were man and wife, is a natural route to marriage at some later time. Sadly, in too many cases, the lack of formal commitment turns out not to be commitment. I imagine that parents and grandparents, Catholics or not, would hope that the unmarried couples are using proper contraception.
While contraception and abortion are very different things, I wonder whether the assumption that we can, and perhaps, should, control fertility by modern methods, contributes to the acceptance of abortion when everything else has failed. Wikipedia, reporting on Catholic attitudes to abortion, tells us “Although the church hierarchy campaigns against abortion and its legalization in all circumstances, including threats to a woman’s life or health and pregnancy from rape, many Catholics disagree with this position, according to several surveys of Western Catholic views”.
None of this is surprising. When the human race changes the way it does things, and particularly when it occurs as something so fundamental as sex and breeding, we should not be surprised if the mores of society change as a result. And we are only just at the beginning.
How do you see the future?