Contraception debate rises again Birth control stirred decline in morality
By DEBORAH GYAPONG Canadian Catholic News, OttawaAs much as North Americans – including a majority of Catholics – may hope modernity has driven a stake through the debate on artificial contraception, it’s back. “With a vengeance,” said Ottawa Catholic John Pacheco, who organized Humanae Vitae 2006 conference held May 12-14 in Ottawa. “It’s the elephant in the room.” For Catholics, the teachings against contraception have been “one of the most well-kept and embarrassing secrets of the Church,” said Janet Smith, a keynote speaker at the conference. Smith, an expert on Church teaching on life ethics, said a 1995 study showed 80 per cent of Catholics used some form of artificial contraception. In 1960, before the advent of the birth control pill, about 60 per cent of Catholics practised natural family planning. Chances are most Catholics have never heard a homily on the issue, nor have new converts received any instruction, she said. The modern world no longer sees babies as blessings but burdens, she said. Interest in the issue is changing, Pacheco said in an interview.
Not only Catholics but also an increasing number of evangelicals are re-examining whether artificial contraception is a good thing. For Smith, the devastating consequences of artificial contraception are numerous: the facilitation of sex outside of marriage; a huge increase in the number of sexually transmitted diseases and infection rates; increased levels of abortion as a back-up; and higher divorce rates. These effects create negative social change leading to more poverty, crime and drug abuse, she said. Pope Paul VI, who wrote Humanae Vitae, the encyclical laying out the Church’s teachings on birth control, said sexual acts had two functions – the expression of the lifelong exclusive love between a husband and wife and an openness to new life. “This particular doctrine . . . is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act,” the pope wrote in 1968. “The effective separation of sex from procreation may be one of the most important defining marks of our age – and one of the most ominous.”- Albert Mohler, Jr. Smith said Paul VI predicted that artificial contraception would result in a general lowering of morality, a decline in respect for women, more coercive control by governments over sexuality and rise in the perceptions that human bodies are merely machines. Demographic decline is another factor spurring renewed interest in the debate. Fears of a population explosion propped up arguments in favour of contraception but Smith said demographers now predict rapid population declines not only in the developed world but in the developing world as well. In fact demographic decline led to the theme of this year’s National March of Life: Abortion is Killing Canada’s Future.
Pacheco looked like Don Quixote when he booked a venue with 1,800 seats, the best audiovisual equipment, including two big screens, and invited top notch speakers, including Smith, who teaches at Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary. His attempt to bring the issue back to the fore didn’t look so “out of touch” though when the New York Times magazine did a take-out entitled “Contra-Contraception” May 7, the Sunday preceding the conference.“As with other efforts – against gay marriage, stem cell research, cloning, assisted suicide – the anti-birth control campaign isn’t centralized,” wrote Russell Shorto for the magazine. “It seems rather to be part of the evolution of the conservative movement.” The article quotes Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler, Jr. who wrote in a December 2005 column: “The effective separation of sex from procreation may be one of the most important defining marks of our age – and one of the most ominous.” Teachings on contraception also lurk behind the ongoing debate about whether condoms should be used to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDs or whether the Church should permit condom use when one married partner is infected. That led CBC’s Sunday Edition host Michael Enright to interview Moira McQueen, the director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute May 14. In that interview, McQueen laid out in detail the Church’s teaching on contraception. The New York Times Magazine and the CBC Radio interview bookending the conference made Pacheco’s conference on this highly controversial subject look almost prophetic.
Only about 300 people attended, far fewer than Pacheco had hoped for, but he had the conference professionally videoed. DVDs and CDs of the conference will be available through the website www.therosarium.ca._______________
Upcoming Ottawa Conference on Contraception and Humanae Vitae Will Address Social Consequences of Birth ControlOTTAWA, Ontario, March 10, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Rosarium, a new Catholic organization dedicated to increasing respect for life in Canada, is hosting a May 2006 conference in Ottawa that will discuss the value and beauty of Christian teaching on sexuality and the negative social impact of contraception. The conference, called “Humanae Vitae 2006 – A New Beginning,” took shape in the context of Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae. “The first thing we aim to do is to highlight and celebrate the beauty and dignity of the human body and the act of natural conjugal love as God had intended it,” John Pacheco, who co-founded The Rosarium in August of 2003, told LifeSiteNews. “And the second is to point out the dangers and harm that contraception has inflicted upon our culture. Everything from morality, to family disintegration, to the loss of the dignity of women, to the serious health consequences of contraceptives will be addressed.”
Mr. Pacheco said the conference name “A New Beginning” reflects the need to begin looking at the cause of social ills, in particular abortion and same-sex “marriage,” instead of simply concentrating on addressing the problems. That cause, he believes, is contraception and the “contraception mentality.” “In the case of same-sex ‘marriage’, for instance, if a society accepts the notion that contraceptive sex is licit, then whether it’s a heterosexual couple or a homosexual couple, they are both committing the same moral act: an act closed to human life. In short, sterilized sex.” “In the case of abortion, the statistics don’t lie. Where contraception is introduced, abortions skyrocket because we foster a mentality of ‘no’ to human life. When a couple is consciously prohibiting the conception of human life through artificial means, they have made a conscious decision to reject life. When a pregnancy results, this ‘mentality of no’ does not magically go away. More often than not, people simply follow through on the ‘no’ they started when they had sex, and seek abortion.” Held at Ottawa’s Lansdowne Park May 12-14, the conference will feature author and lecturer Dr. Janet Smith, an expert on contraception issues and the teachings of Humanae Vitae, along with other noted speakers on life issues. Conference organizers emphasize that the material will have universal significance for all Christians and “people of good will.” Theological differences will not be a factor, since the issues discussed will encompass basic morality, science and other disciplines.
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