Contraception Has Fundamentally Changed The Way People View The Marital Act.
California Catholic-In a wide-ranging commentary published last month in the first edition of the diocese’s new bi-monthly magazine Catholic Herald, Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto observes that artificial contraception has become “the unquestioned default mode of marriage,” with disastrous results for society.
The bishop used as a starting point the counsel of Bl. Cardinal John Henry Newman: “He, then, is perfect who does the work of the day perfectly, and we need not go beyond this to seek for perfection. You need not go out of the round of the day.”
“In the heated, partisan passions wrestling for political advantage in the trench warfare of abortion, we have to change hearts; as well as change laws,” wrote Bishop Soto. “Creating that culture of life is more than a political agenda. The gospel of life has the power to transform hearts and habits as well as laws when the Christian follows Newman’s counsel and performs ‘the ordinary duties of the day well.’”
Bishop Soto says we can “round our days” by observing routines in our lives that serve to sanctify us and evangelize others. Wearing one’s wedding ring or conversations around the dinner table with family are simple examples of this practice, he wrote, but they also include participation in the political process and more reflection and the cultivation of new habits “in the sexual practice of marriage.”
“One habit that has taken hold of many marriages is the use of artificial means of contraception,” wrote Bishop Soto. “The prevalence of the practice in and outside of the Catholic community has made contraception the unquestioned default mode of marriage. As a consequence, sexuality and relationships are misunderstood and misused; and their true purpose is misplaced.”
“These comments are not just about the ‘pill’ or other forms of contraceptives,” the bishop continued. “This is more about the habit of using artificial means. The habit has shaped the hearts and minds of many, especially the young. Marriage is no longer understood as the covenant of love between a man and a woman that creates life, because procreation is no longer associated with sexual intercourse. In this new social situation, many shrug their shoulders and wonder why a sexual relationship between any two people who care for each other cannot be called a marriage.”
“The church’s teaching against the use of artificial contraceptives comes from a reverential awe for the ‘round’ of the marriage covenant, where the human family finds life, grace and goodness revealed in the ordinary rituals of the home,” said Bishop Soto. “The sexual ritual should not be discounted or dismissed from this sacramental view.”
In addition, wrote the bishop, “The teaching of Natural Family Planning, as a moral and cultural alternative to the contraceptive culture, offers couples the opportunity to appreciate their sexuality, the grace of fertility and a way to unite themselves to the natural bodily rhythms that create life. Pastors and catechists should be more confident in teaching it.
Married couples and young people eager to be married should explore this possibility as a gift, not a burden.”