Fools or Liars?

Senior Editor’s Note: TCT’s Editor-in-Chief, Robert Royal, will appear today on the nationally syndicated NPR program To the Point with Warren Olney. Dr. Royal and Mr. Olney will discuss religion and the environment. Check your local listings. (UPDATE: The interview will air beginning  at 2:15 EDT and may be heard online.) -ABM

The latest apologists for the Sexual Revolution – that great swamp of sewage backup, human misery, family breakdown, squalid entertainment, and lawyers – have been saying that the most radical anthropological breach ever known to man, the detachment of marriage from childbirth and the plain facts of nature, will have no effect (none at all, not to worry) on marriage and childbirth and family and community life.

To which I reply, “Haven’t you said that before?” About what exactly have the sexual revolutionaries been right? Which of their non-predictions has been confirmed?

They told us that liberalization of the divorce laws – the no-fault divorce that libertarians so heedlessly pushed – would have no effect, none at all, not to worry, upon the frequency of divorce. The new laws would only make divorce less painful to the couple, and consequently less painful to the children. For there are such things as “good” divorces.

By a miracle of sympathy and maturity beyond their years, children would be happy to find their parents happy. In fact, they could never be happy otherwise. No one troubled to ask how their parents could possibly be happy in the teeth of their children’s sorrow. Well, the revolutionaries were wrong about that. Or they were lying; one or the other.

They told us that “everybody was doing it,” with “it” growing gradually more immoral and unnatural, basing their assertions upon research conducted by that pedophile and fraud, Alfred Kinsey. Therefore, they said, to smile upon fornication was not to change anything, except to relieve everybody from reproach, and allow them to do open and honestly what they had been doing dishonestly and in secret.

In one generation the relations between the sexes were utterly transformed, so that girls (and boys too) who wanted to practice the ordinary virtue of prudence, and even the more difficult virtue of chastity, were “immiserated,” left out, lonely. In the old days, a boy’s heart might leap if the girl gave him a kiss. Now he can hardly feign a bit of affection unless she brings him to climax. Well, the revolutionaries were wrong about that too. Or they were lying.

They told us that pornography was an innocent pastime for a minority of people interested in it. It had nothing to do with violence. It would not coarsen the culture. You would be able to keep children away from it. No effect, none at all, not to worry. Need I comment on this one? They were wrong, or they were lying.

The Sexual Revolution: inappropriate, nightmarish, and nasty.

They told us that the Pill would result in fewer children being conceived out of wedlock, and that liberalizing the abortion laws would have no effect, none at all, not to worry, upon the number of women seeking them. Pope Paul in Humanae vitae predicted otherwise. Now forty percent of children in America are born out of wedlock, most of them to grow up without a stable home. And by the testimony of the Supreme Court itself, abortion has become so intimate a part of a woman’s life, as the failsafe against the misfortune of making a child when you do the child-making thing, that it cannot possibly be scaled back now. Again, the revolutionaries were wrong, or they were lying.

I should say they were lying again, because the evidence they brought before the courts had always been a mass of fabrications.

They told us that little children introduced to sex by sweet and gentle older people would suffer no great harm by it, unless parents overreacted. They had for a while to forget that they ever said it, but now that the Catholic Church has cleaned house, they are forgetting that they forgot it, and are starting to sing the same old tune: no harm, none at all, not to worry. They were and are wrong, or they were and are lying.

They told us that the ERA, which was never ratified but which has been litigated into law anyway, would not result in such absurdities as women being sent into combat, the end of single-sex public colleges, unisex bathrooms, and the normalization of homosexuality. No effect, none at all, not to worry. They were wrong about that, or they were lying.

What have they gotten right? Have the relations between men and women ever been more suspicious, more fraught with anger and shame? According to their own testimony, our colleges are swarming jungles of assault and rape. That was not so before the revolutionaries did their work.

They said that abortion would not lead to euthanasia. Now they are glad that it has led to euthanasia, and they say that euthanasia, doctor-assisted snuffing, will not lead to killing elderly people without their consent. Actually, it has led to killing elderly people without their consent. Elderly people are subjected to slow and purportedly painless suffocation every day, in every hospital in the country. No effect, none at all, not to worry.

We were told that extending the notion (not the reality, which is impossible, but the pretense) of marriage to same-sex couples will have no effect, none at all, on anything else in the land. It will have no effect on what children are taught in school. It will have no effect on the number of young people experimenting in the unnatural. It will have no effect on religious liberty. It will have no effect on freedom of speech.

It could not possibly have any effect on such things, because, we were told, the behavior in question was perfectly natural, engaged in by perfectly healthy people. It was not an unnatural moral and psychological disorder, impossible to render natural, which could only be shored up by coercion. No effect, none at all, not to worry. And by the way, agree or be destroyed.

When have they ever been right in their predictions? Why should we trust them now?

Anthony Esolen

Anthony Esolen

Anthony Esolen is a lecturer, translator, and writer. His latest books are Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child and Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture. He directs the Center for the Restoration of Catholic Culture at Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts.

  • Randall Peaslee

    And if we think it can’t possibly get any worse, the ‘normalization’ of sexual relations between humans and animals is coming up the road. But of course, that will have no effect on things. None at all, not to worry.

    • RainingAgain

      Mr Esolen referred to the imminent return of the paedophilia campaign. This would have been far more advanced had not the irresistible opportunity of child abuse by Catholic priests not presented itself. As the Catholic Church is the principle enemy of the libertines, the promotion of paedophilia had to be put on the “back-burner” for a while. It is now time for them to resume. To my mind, this threat is the worst of all, far more destructive than even bestiality, horror though it is. At least the pervert who wishes to “shag a sheep” is only contributing to his own destruction-the sheep is and will remain innocent. But the effects of these predators on children…

      • The first step, as in homosexuality, will be redefining paedophilia as a “sexual orientation” and removing it as a mental disorder. Morality will not enter the discussion in the secular realm. It will all be about “preference”, and possibly a genetic predisposition.

        Next, those with this “orientation” will be classified as a “protected group”, so as not to be subjected to “discrimination”, “bigotry” and “hate”. Programs will be introduced to schools to “help” children understand this “choice”.

        Then the age of consent for sex by and with children will be lowered; initially to to 14 years and then earlier as the agenda progresses.

        • Rob B.

          If this is the course, there will also be “scientific studies” indicating that children have sexual desires at “much earlier ages than previously thought.” We must remember that those who seek sexual liberty will always appeal to science…

        • Chris in Maryland

          Ruth Bader-Ginsberg has publicly stated that the age of consent should be 12 yoa. I can’t imagine that the other 3 leftists of the super-doopers disagree with RBG.

          The same Ruth that publicly stated that the purpose of abortion rights is to eliminate – wait for it – “the undesirables.”

          That a person of Jewish ancestry who lived through the 1940’s could even utter the phrase “the undesirables” staggers the imagination.

    • fredx2


    • Billiamo

      Plural marriage is next.

      • kathleen

        I used to hear this saying growing up in Catholic Ireland: God between us and all harm. This prayer needed now more than ever in Ireland and the United States – home of so many immigrants.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    It is a fact, often overlooked, that the real spike, or rather, series of leaps, in the divorce rate occurred in the first half of the 20th century, not, as is commonly supposed, in the second.

    Taking the figures for my own country, Scotland, between 1900-1950 there was a 1,430% increase in divorce decrees (from 144 in 1900 to 2,204 in 1950); between 1950-2000 the increase was 403% (from 2,204 to 11,096) During the century, the population rose from 4.47 m to 5.06 m, an increase of 13%

    In 1930, there were 469 decrees. A generation earlier, in 1890, there had been 87. There were 890 decrees in 1939 (more than ten times the 1890 figure), but in 1949, there were 2,447, a further increase of 175% over 10 years.

    In the 1950s, the annual average was 2,071; in the 1930s, the annual average had been 597, representing a 250% increase on the 1930s average. So much for the family-friendly ’50s.

    As for no-fault divorce, in 1970, there were 4,618 decrees and in 1974, the last full year before no-fault divorce, there were 7,221, a 168% increase on the 1965 figure. In 1976, the first full year of no-fault divorce, there were 8,692. In the 1980s, the annual average was 11,824, a 64% increase on the 1974 figure. It would appear that no-fault divorce had little impact on the accelerating rate of marriage breakdown.

    • Michael Dowd

      According to the U.S. Department of Census the divorce rate went from a stable 25% from 1950-1970 when it escalated to 50% from 1970 to 2004.

    • Gail Finke

      I’d say no-fault divorce is an outcome of the divorce epidemic, not a cause of it. People were divorcing at ever-higher rates, so the courts and lawmakers just made it easier for them to do so. What no-fault divorce did, though, was to make it possible for some who would not have divorced if the had had to prove a fault to simply leave the other spouse — I don’t know if that is an unintended consquence or and intended one. So it further weakened marriage and opened divorce to a new cohort of people.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        The principle effect of no-fault divorce was to end the charade of “Hotel Cases,” in which the receptionist who booked them in and the chambermaid who brought them their early morning tea proved that the Defender (always the husband), whom they identified from a photograph, spent the night with a lady, who was not the Pursuer; their precognitions might as well have been mimeographed. No effort was ever made to identify the fair unknown and there was never any evidence of prior association.

    • Loved As If

      Percentage wise, and using this method, you’re right. But percentages based on the previous decade’s total is a very limited way to interpret the data. Without comparing the percentages of divorce decrees to the number of marriages, there’s no way to know what’s actually happening. For your statistics to have actual meaning, you must tell us if there was an increase/decrease in population and marriages. There may also be other variables. We need to know the context.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        I gave the figure for population increase – 13% over the century. Between 1901 and 1951, the population rose from 4,472,103 to 5,095,969 (+ 13.95%) Between 1951 and 2001 it fell from 5,095,969 to 5,062,000 (-0.66%)

        It is impossible to calculate the number of marriages, for marriage in Scotland required no notice, no formality and no record of any kind. Summonses for divorce often began with a crave for declarator of marriage.

        • kathleen

          Suffice to say: Marriage is a Sacrament and it hasn’t been respected. Whatever the numbers.

    • fredx2

      Why would you talk about raw numbers of decrees when population is always increasing?

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        As I noted, between 1900 and 2000, ” the population rose from 4.47 m to 5.06 m, an increase of 13%”

    • Ford

      I would argue it constituted the *legal* breakdown, though. The contract no longer has the element of indissolubility, especially as regards the parties themselves.

  • Joyfully

    I saw a beautiful commercial about marriage for the first time last night. It was on a major network and after 8 p.m. As it was running I was marveling at how lovely it’s message was. When it ended, it revealed the sponsorship: The Catholic Church!

    My heart soared with affection.

    All readers here who may have influence as to where Mother Church spends money, please encourage her to put more into positive, beautiful reinforcement of our faith-life and world view in film production – whether we like it or not, tv-viewing it like the fresco’s of yesteryear.

    • kathleen

      I hope it catches on! I will look for the commercial – an inspiring message it sounds like. The world is aching for truth spelled with a capital “T”. Thank you.

      • Joyfully

        Kathleen, I posted the link above for Rob. If it doesn’t come through you can find it at Facebook page Michigan Celebrates Marriage, which is hosted by the Michigan Catholic Conference… hope it helps. Pax Christi

    • Rob B.

      Is it on YouTube, joyfully? I’d love to see it.

  • Tom Piatak

    An excellent piece.

  • givelifeachance2

    “Now that the Catholic Church has cleaned house”, they are telling us that communion for unrepentant adulterers and fornicators is not going to hurt anyone….

  • Professor Esolen, you are our generations’ Professor John Senior. Keep writing. Please don’t ever stop!

  • Michael Dowd

    One could make the argument that all of this cultural and moral decline began with the Anglican Lambeth conference of 1930 where the use of artificial birth control was first approved for use under limited circumstances. It didn’t long before the circumstances became unlimited as selfishness knows no bounds. Birth control undermines the very purpose of marriage so the outcome is not surprising.
    Abortion, pornography and all the rest flow from what might be called the contraceptive mentality which demands all the pleasure and none of the grief but ends with all of the grief and none of the pleasure. Kind of stupid isn’t it.

    • tomdmeyer

      If a Christian couple use contraceptives to space their children rather than NFP, is their use undermining the very purpose of marriage?

      • James Stagg

        Yes. It is simply the use of unnatural means versus natural means.

        • tomdmeyer

          That’s a facile appeal to nature.

      • HigherCalling

        A rightly ordered marriage is always open to new life. A rightly ordered marriage contributes significantly to a culture of life. Contraception (exactly like same-sex “sex”) is utterly closed to new life, undermining the very purpose of marriage. NFP is open to new life and does not violate the essential nature of the marital act. The mentality surrounding contraception, which is organically and unavoidably linked to acceptance and legalization of abortion, is directly linked to the culture of death. NFP shares no such link. You cannot be pro-contraception and claim to be pro-life.

        • Jude

          I know plenty of Catholic couples (even NFP instructors) who are in fact closed to life. They are using NFP as Church-approved birth control. Same mentality, different means. Don’t take this as my argument for birth control. I am for the use of NFP only for grave circumstances. But as Catholics we need to admit that it is being abused. Especially with all the new fertility awareness methods and home ovulation tests, NFP has slid right into non-barrier, non-chemical contraception.

          • JD

            Use of the word “grave” is a mistranslation. The correct word is “just.”

            I know in theory NFP can be abused, but I don’t know of anyone doing so. Because it requires self control and sacrifice on the part of both spouses (when avoiding pregnancy), NFP seems to draw the couple away from selfishness and toward selflessness. I find it interesting that you know plenty of Catholics using NFP as contraception, because most couples wouldn’t bother when the pill is so much easier. I also don’t understand the knock on “new fertility awareness methods” and “home ovulation tests” and their supposed connection to a contraceptive mentality?

          • Lane Andrew


            Over the years, many words have been used in reference to NFP. Grave, just, serious, proportional, etc. They all really mean the same thing. NFP can be used when the couple has some kind of serious reason, a reason serious enough to make NFP’s use just and right. I think a good measuring stick would be, a reason that is out of the ordinary.

            I know many Catholic families who have used nfp their whole marriage. They openly say that they use nfp to space their children and to plan their family size. It’s all out in the open and freely talked about. Nothing unusual going on in their lives, they just say that they want their children spaced 3 years apart or they don’t want more than 5 children.

            I’m glad they are using nfp instead of the pill. But seriously, if Catholics are just going to use natural means of birth control for the same motives as everyone else uses the pill, then I think it’s not that big of a moral difference. Both are not fully open to life.

            So what if NFP is hard? That doesn’t mean it can’t be abused. In fact, it’s a great temptation for many faithful Catholics to use—-because they want to remain faithful, but they are influenced by the culture to be closed to life in lots of ways. By using nfp, they can be faithful Catholics and seemingly open to life. It’s the perfect compromise.

          • JD

            Over the years many have distorted the Church’s understanding of the legitimacy of NFP due to a mistranslation into English of Humanae Vitae in which the word “grave” was wrongly used instead of the more accurate “just.” The 2 words most certainly do not mean the same thing as “grave” has led many to believe that unless their lives were in imminent danger they ought to have more children.

            I already admitted that NFP can be abused, I am just surprised that you and Jude seem to know so many who do. Where I live the Catholics who aren’t open to life are on the pill and those wishing to be faithful to Christ and the Church use NFP (both to avoid and to achieve pregnancy BTW).

            I think we must also be careful not to lump together the ends and means. Contraception is wrong because it is an immoral means which frustrates the marital act. The ends for which a couple uses contraception may or may not be sinful. NFP on the other hand is a morally legitimate means to avoid pregnancy. You rightly point out that the ends for which it’s used can be sinful. What puzzles me is that you and Jude somehow seem to know that all of these couples have sinful intentions for which they are employing NFP to either space out pregnancies or limit their family size . I don’t know how anyone but their confessor could possibly know that.

          • Jude

            I guess I know because, just like the “Catholic” wives who are only too eager to tell me why they had a tubal ligation or their husband had a vasectomy, the NFP wives are eager to tell me about using the method to avoid pregnancies for years on end and about the fact that they don’t want any more children. Now just to be clear, I don’t EVER ask about this. For some reason, when people see that I have a large family, they feel the need to tell me why they don’t. My grandmother had twelve children and told me that the same thing always happened to her. I don’t know if this is a case of their consciences pricking them, but I have Catholics that I have met for the first time giving me this information. And quite frankly, I would rather not hear it. I don’t want to hear about how they think that “we just thought we could do so much more for them if we only had two.” I don’t want to hear about how having a third or fourth child would mean needing to get a bigger house so that each child could have their own room. I don’t want to hear about how they told their husband to “get snipped,” if he ever wanted to touch them again. And I especially don’t want to hear from NFP instructors who are part of a parish’s Pre Cana program about how it can be used for years and years to avoid pregnancies. There are actual NFP advocates (hello, Dr. Gregory Popcak) who are trying to convince us that we MUST use NFP instead of simply being open to as many children as God sees fit to send us. Because apparently doing the same thing that faithful Catholics did for centuries is now seen as being irresponsible.

          • Jude

            If you can use all of these methods to avoid pregnancy for an extended period of time, that is a contraceptive mentality. Different method, same outcome, due to the precision that expensive, computer fertility monitors and ovulation tests offer. Through charting and restricting the marital act to only during infertile periods, the couple is not actually open to life. How is that selfless? I am not talking about avoiding pregnancy due to a serious medical condition or extreme poverty. I am talking about couples using it to avoid pregnancy for years and even informing others that they are “done” having children. Wanting freedom to travel or a certain lifestyle are not legitimate reasons.

          • JD

            Extreme poverty and serious medical conditions are not the only reasons a couple should avoid pregnancy. That position is not the Catholic one as evidenced by the wrong use of “grave” rather than “just.” There are certainly illegitimate reasons people may abstain as you mentioned, but God gives couples the freedom to make that prudential judgement for themselves. We must be carefule that the pendulum not overcorrect to the point that we view marriage like a livestock production operation, where as many children as possible must be had – this is certainly not Catholic.

          • Lane Andrew

            Don’t worry, we are not anywhere near the “pendulum” swinging the other way. I go to a 5000 member Catholic church. I know one family that has over seven children. Unless people are leaving half their children home on Sunday morning, it’s so obvious that the problem is not the Catholic family becoming a “livestock production operation.” The problem is getting people to have more than two children. It’s seen as impossible, burdensome, unneccessary, and even against Church teaching. Somehow the Church is seen to teach that parents have to plan their families out according to their own judgment so that no one is inconvienced or burdened.

          • Jude

            We used to attend a typical, affluent, suburban Novus Ordo parish. Only four families with five or more children, so we all knew each other. (The crazy families who must not have television or know what causes that.) We now attend a TLM parish. It would seem that the rampant infertility we are supposed to believe is striking the Catholic Church in the last few decades hasn’t hit there yet. Plenty of large families, a noticeable lack of luxury cars. What a difference being truly open to life makes.

          • Lane Andrew

            I think that Catholics have been conditioned to understand NFP as good, because it’s not the Pill or a condom. They have been conditioned to think that NFP is open to life, even though everyone knows it’s not open to life in a full way. If all Catholics stopped using condoms and went to NFP, I’m not sure what advantage that would be. The same mentality would prevail. The same desire to plan and limit family size.

          • Shawn McElhinney

            [Use of the word “grave” is a mistranslation. The correct word is “just.”]

            Precisely. Those who think iustae causae translates as grave causes either have a poor understanding of Latin or are pushing an agenda of sorts. I am inclined to think a certain translator or translators personal scruples got in the way of a faithful rendering of the text and that has caused no small degree of damage on this matter. (I wonder if reception of HV would have been so abysmal if what was mistranslated as “grave” was properly translated as “just” but I digress.)

          • Lane Andrew


            I agree 100%. HigherCalling said, “NFP is open to life.” What? In what sense exactly? A couple doesn’t want a fourth child because they feel they can only handle three. They utilize NFP to avoid the 4th pregnancy, actively working to avoid their fertile periods. And yet this is being open to life? I think it would be better to say they are in many ways closed to life. Now if they were to accidently get pregnant, they would reluctantly receive the new baby and not abort it—so in that sense they are open to life in part. But I feel like it’s silly to say they are somehow truly and fully open to life.

          • JD

            Higher Calling explained the sense in which NFP is open to life. It does nothing to frustrate intercourse, therefore each marital act is ordered to the creation of life. NFP couples don’t “accidentally” get pregnant because they know if they engage in the act, pregnancy is the ultimate end. So they also don’t reluctanty receive children, they joyfully receive them.

          • Shawn McElhinney

            [I am for the use of NFP only for grave circumstances.]

            That may be but the Catholic Church is not so restrictive as you are. Kindly do not try and tie heavier burdens on folks than what the Church actually calls for.

          • Jude

            Right, because the Church has done such a fantastic job of moral leadership in the last fifty years. Let’s use that as our benchmark, instead of centuries of Catholics allowing God to plan their families. But, yeah, we probably know better than God what is good for us.

          • Shawn McElhinney

            [Right, because the Church has done such a fantastic job of moral leadership in the last fifty years.]

            Translation: I do not care what the Church actually teaches but I am going to insist on others following MY particular whims on this issue. If your benchmark is not actual Church teaching on these matters, how are you any different in principle than the We Are Church crowd who pick and choose what teachings they like and do not like as well. (As I am sure they would have recourse to “problems with the hierarchy” to explain their dissidence too!)

            Also, in case you were unaware, the Vaticans position on natural methods of birth regulation has been consistent since at least 1853…if my math skills are correct, that is more than 150 years, not just 50. I await your castigation of every pope between Pius IX and Pius XII now but I will not hold my breath.

            [Let’s use that as our benchmark, instead of centuries of Catholics allowing God to plan their families.]

            My are you either naive or seriously ignorant about history! Did you know that a lot of babies died as infants in the “good old days” and about a third of births in “the good old days” the children did not survive to the age of ten? And even kids who were lucky to survive to ten in “the good old days” still had a good chance of being killed by disease before they reached adulthood! In that sort of environment, it made sense to have a lot of kids cause the odds were really good that you would end up burying many of them and those you did not could be thrown out into the farm to work with no real education. Yeah the situation of most folks throughout history mirrors what it has been since the death rate was overcome about 150 years after all: completely apples and apples there! :::rolling eyes:::

            [But yeah, we probably know better than God what is good for us.]

            Translation: who cares what the Church actually teaches because Jude locuta est after all!

          • Jude

            Yeah, there were probably a lot of women using computerized fertility monitors and ovulation predictor tests in the nineteenth century to be “open to life.” Catholics didn’t have a lot of children because some might die. Large Catholic families were still the norm in the 1950’s. They had a lot of children, because they understood that the end of the marital act is procreation. It is not just unitive, but also procreative. Catholics who are skipping the procreative are fooling themselves, if they think they are remaining open to life. My conscience is clear on this matter.

          • Shawn McElhinney

            [Yeah, there were probably a lot of women using computerized fertility monitors and ovulation predictor tests in the nineteenth century to be “open to life.”]

            No more than were using other kinds of twentieth century discoveries before they were discovered. The principles behind those later discoveries were long recognized and accepted by the Church though and that was my point.

            [Catholics didn’t have a lot of children because some might die.]

            That was certainly a significant factor in the equation.

            [Large Catholic families were still the norm in the 1950’s.]

            And infant mortality while decreased was still a factor. Case in point: my mother has two older brothers but only one survived past the age of six months. Odds are good that if my grandparents lived thirty to fifty years before that they probably would have buried two or three of their five kids instead of just one of them.

            [They had a lot of children, because they understood that the end of the marital act is procreation. It is not just unitive, but also procreative.]

            Procreation is intrinsic to the act yes. NFP does not manipulate the natural cycles at all but instead respects them.

            [Catholics who are skipping the procreative are fooling themselves, if they think they are remaining open to life. ]

            How is this so when they do nothing to frustrate the natural God-developed cycles?

            [My conscience is clear on this matter.]

            Apparently you feel in conscience that you can try and tie heavier burdens on folks than what the Catholic Church does. Last I heard, the powers of binding and loosing (Matt xviii,16-17) were bestowed upon them and not you.

          • Jude

            And they have done such excellent work the last fifty years. Truly, the Church is experiencing a new springtime.
            Amazing that you, like Obama, see children as burdens.

          • Shawn McElhinney

            [And they have done such excellent work the last fifty years. Truly, the Church is experiencing a new springtime.]

            You sure like to go for red herrings rather than actually interact with the issues. The bottom line is this: what does the Church allow and what does she forbid. Our opinions on this matter do not carry the same weight.

            [Amazing that you, like Obama, see children as burdens.]

            See my previous comments. Whats truly amazing is that you probably consider yourself “Traditional” yet you violate the most basic principles of traditional Catholic spiritual instruction. A hint: libel is a sin, not a virtue.

        • tomdmeyer

          I would submit that a married couple who have children and who plan to have more cannot be “utterly closed to life.”

          You might find their use of contraceptives objectionable for other reasons, but it can’t be that one.

          • HigherCalling

            Each individual act is what is utterly closed to new life when contraception is in use. Though NFP can be abused as a form of contraception, each individual act is still open to the possibility of new life. The fact that the ends of each method appear to be the same does not render the means equal. The means matter entirely. The means of each method are based in a mentality whose ends extend far beyond the prevention of conception — each leading to two vastly opposing cultures.

          • tomdmeyer

            You don’t know what you’re talking about.

            Married couples who use contraceptives can _and often do_ embrace pregnancies that result regardless. That there are many people who feel contraceptives entitle them to have sex with no possibility of children, that is more a comment on such people’s foolishness than anything else.

            I don’t deny that NFP has certain advantages in these regards, and I think it has much to recommend it, but the Church’s position that NFP is the _only_ moral option available is both poorly argued and exceedingly off-putting.

          • JD

            You are certainly free to reject Church teaching on the instrinsic evil of contraception. But at least be honest with yourself and leave the Church, rather than picking and choosing which doctrines you accept. Catholics who remain in the Church and dissent are living a lie.

        • tomdmeyer

          There are also plenty of people who use contraceptives, but who do not countenance abortion.

          • HigherCalling

            Those people are, at best, intellectually inconsistent or not seeing the complete picture. More likely they are willfully blind to the organic link between the contraceptive mentality and its contribution to the breakdown of the family and the culture of death.

          • tomdmeyer

            Or, you’re not considering that there can be logically valid, morally serious arguments on this subject other than your own.

      • Anthony Zarrella

        Tom, Pope Paul VI actually addressed this very issue in Humanae Vitae. I’d be happy to cite specifically, but it might be simpler if you google it, go to the link that goes to the Vatican website’s posting of HV, and look to sections 11, 14 (third paragraph), and 16 (all, but especially the third paragraph).

        Your objection is not new, and Pope Paul foresaw the need to explain, so that others who have the same doubts as you may be reassured that the Church is not blind to those questions.

        • tomdmeyer

          Hi Anthony,

          I was responding to Michael’s specific choice of language above (“Birth Control undermines the very purpose of marriage”), rather than that of Humanae Vitae. Having re-read the sections you recommended, I can’t say much more than that they’re the kind of natural law argument I find very unpersuasive.

          • Anthony Zarrella

            Ah, I see. Perhaps you could elaborate on why you find natural law arguments unpersuasive?

            Also, perhaps you could clarify if you’re a Catholic (in the sense of acknowledging the identity of the Church and the authority of the Magisterium) or not? I wouldn’t want to waste your time and mine citing Church authorities if you don’t acknowledge them as valid, of course.

          • tomdmeyer

            Sure, and thank you for responding in good faith.

            I have two basic problems with such arguments:

            1) They’re extremely choosey about what parts of nature are meant to be illustrative of God’s intent, so much so that I find the exercise to be largely a waste of time. The logic of the third paragraph of Section 16, Paragraph 3 should lead one to decide that vaccination is inherently disordered as it, too, “obstruct[s] the natural development” of a bodily function through artificial means.

            2) They assume something must be wrong in the particular if it causes confusion or evil among others. There are *millions* of couples who use contraceptives without experiencing the effects described in Section 17. That some people misuse or are irresponsible with a technology speaks nothing about its inherent value.

          • Anthony Zarrella

            You’re quite welcome – as near as I can tell, debating in other than good faith is a waste of everyone’s time, so I try (key word: try) to always reply as such, and I thank you for doing the same.

            They’re extremely choosey about what parts of nature are meant to be illustrative of God’s intent

            I’ll deal with your specific example in a moment, but first let me just note that “Natural Law” is different from “the law of nature”. Specifically, a Natural Law theorist would not look to (for example) animal behavior to illustrate God’s intent as to humans, except in those aspects in which humans and animals are the same (which is a relatively narrow category, to a Christian). The relevant “nature” when discussing human topics is human nature.

            I’m not assuming you’re getting this wrong, but enough people seem to do so that I felt it worth getting out of the way up front.

            The logic of the third paragraph of Section 16, Paragraph 3 should lead one to decide that vaccination is inherently disordered as it, too, “obstruct[s] the natural development” of a bodily function through artificial means.

            A vaccine uses a means identical to that present in the natural order (the introduction of a pathogen) to stimulate the body’s natural response (the generation of antibodies.

            By contrast, contraception uses unnatural means (whether synthetic hormones or physical barriers) to impede the body’s natural function (respectively, by disrupting the menstrual cycle or by physically impeding the union of sperm and egg).

            I’m not saying the argument is 100% airtight, but there’s at least a prima facie plausibility to the distinction.

            There are *millions* of couples who use contraceptives without experiencing the effects described in Section 17. That some people misuse or are irresponsible with a technology speaks nothing about its inherent value.

            Section 17 is not a natural law argument, merely a prediction of plausible ill effects (which, on a macro level, has been proven true in the ensuing decades). I agree – if Section 17 were an attempt to categorically prove the illiceity of contraception, simply by arguing that it will have negative effects on a certain percentage of users, then that would be a fallacious argument.

            I admit, it can be less than clear. The Church has such a tradition of natural law reasoning that its documents tend to shift freely in and out of natural law logic without always signaling what is, and what is not claimed to flow from natural law.

            They assume something must be wrong in the particular if it causes confusion or evil among others.

            Well, yes, but not in the way you mean. The Church does, however, have a concept known as “scandal,” which means that it is a sin to do something that will sow moral confusion among others or lead others into sin, even if the act itself is not intrinsically sinful.

            That isn’t really relevant here though. I mention it only because I found it interesting that you had inadvertently (I assume?) hit upon a real, and little-known Church doctrine.

    • HigherCalling

      Of course the Protestant acceptance of artificial contraception (and the resultant societal acceptance) did not occur out of the blue. It was preceded by several things, not the least of which (harsh as it sounds to modern ears) was women’s suffrage and the onset of Feminism. That was preceded by other errors in thought that can be tracked back stage-wise to the deliberate rejection of the legitimate moral and doctrinal authority of the Church established by Jesus Christ. The entire process is the theological, philosophical, social and political evolution of Liberalism, launched by the Reformation.

      Artificial contraception erases the essential significance of maleness and femaleness in sexual behavior. From there the unavoidable next step is to erase the significance of maleness and femaleness in marriage. The slide then slips easily into the confusion of maleness and femaleness in gender identity and the increasing obsession with all things sexual. You’ll see plenty of “conservatives” defending contraception, but the fact is, it is a great plum of Liberalism and cannot be disconnected from all of the evils of Liberalism. Seeking liberty apart from Truth and moral virtue (i.e. Liberalism) is a mortal sin. It defines the civilizational crisis the West has been living through for centuries.

      • Ford

        You can think of women’s suffrage in the negative as the disenfranchisement of the *family*. Women’s suffrage, in fact, divided the family vote.

  • Gail Finke

    Preach it!

  • fredx2

    Don’t forget to mention that the largest longitudinal survey taken, shows that women are more unhappy than they have ever been.

    Slate: “Women are More Unhappy Than Ever Before”

    Women are unhappier than they have been in 35 years. So suggests a study released earlier this week by the National Bureau of Economics. Two economists at U Pennconducted an exhaustive study of happiness and found that women’s “subjective well-being” has declined, “both absolutely and relatively to men,” as they put it.

    In fact, though women have historically had higher self-reported levels of happiness than men, today women are “reporting happiness levels” that are “even lower than those of men.” (Men’s happiness has dropped, too, but not as much as women’s.)

    …Though women have made gains in every area over the past 35 years – from education to their place in the work force- these gains do not appear, by the study’s measures, to translate into actual contentment.”

    Could it be that screwing up families has made woman unhappy?

    • jenmikeolson

      That’s very interesting and not surprising. For myself however, I can honestly say that I am quite joyful, happy, content, and fulfilled. But, I always define myself as “simply a mom”. And I find it to be the greatest accomplishment I ever achieved even though I do have a good paying career. Maybe some day it will catch on for everyone else.

  • Absolutely spot on! A sewer is exactly what this culture has become.

    • Lane Andrew


      I’m wondering though, if almost all Catholics resort to birth control at some point in their marriage, then how can we lament the “sewer that this culture has become?” Have even faithful Catholics unwittingly contributed to it becoming a sewer—Yes, I think so.

      • Yes we all have. We can’t help being influenced by the culture. Of course we can still lament it. That’s just one element of many that has destroyed the culture.

  • Manfred

    Our daughter was married last October at a Nuptial Mas presided by her pastor who is also in the Neo-Catechumenate Movement. His subject for his sermon was The Will of God: The Indissolubility of Marriage. His message was clear, traditional and frank. He mentioned the purpose of Catholic marriage was the spouses obligation to assist each other in achieving, hopefully, salvation.

    The wedding ceremony went very well and the reception was perfect, EXCEPT it was marred by guests approaching my daughter asking if she had told the priest which subject to speak on. Many of these catholics, of various ages, were divorced and remarried without annulments (it had never occurred to them to seek for one), and they felt that they had been personally rebuked and made examples. It was quite hostile for a short while but the anger faded when drinks and dinner was served.

    You see, when a true Catholic bears witness to the Truth to people who have not heard for fifty years, their reaction is a feeling of having been cheated out of their birthright as a baptized Catholic AND THEY WERE. They merely did what their other theologically illiterate catholic friends were doing.

    If only the priest had spoken on recycling bottles and cans, why he would have received a standing ovation!

    • bernie

      if and when the Bishops finally fess up to reality and declare that V.Pres. O’Boy, Sen. Younamehim and Congresswoman Whome are no longer in the Church and free to receive the Eucharist, what can we expect from the ranks of all their aborting, contracepting fellow travelers in the Church? Surely we can expect outrage for being misled. And how about all those who practice NFP (Not For Propagation) simply because they don’t want children? We live in strange times. Your experience was revealing. Right now, they wont even call out Mrs. C. for recent remarks that demand religion change its teaching on abortion, homosex, etc. We need to pray for a courageous episcopal leadership – now.

    • Lane Andrew


      I find it hard to believe that a Catholic does not know that divorce and remarriage is a sin according to Church teaching. Whether or not they ever heard it from the pulpit, still—-how can you be a Catholic and not know anything about your own religion? One would hope they know that Christ is the Son of God.

      • accelerator

        Pleaaw. Listen to Pope Francis.Who even knows what “Catholic” now means with such vaciliation at the helm

  • Romulus

    “now that the Catholic Church has cleaned house”

    And, not incidentally, been cleaned out.

  • susanna

    They don’t try to get it right. They want it wrong.

  • Bro_Ed

    Re “GossipGirl”: I take back what I said about your always having appropriate illustrations.

  • shawnbm

    and let us not forget the sudden emergence of alleged transgendered people. What some ill-advised (or lying) parents allow or push for their children in this regard is abhorrent. Natural law has been tossed aside for man-made, unnatural law–and practically all of it in one or two generations at most. The Evil One is smiling at our lot.

  • Marie

    Great article. SSM could have lots of bad effects, not to mention bad legal effects downstream. Justice Alito asked the U.S. solicitor general if churches could lose their tax-exempt status if gay marriage is ruled a constitutional right. He replied, “it’s certainly going to be an issue”.

    • Lane Andrew

      I hope it doesn’t come to that, churches losing their tax exempt status; however, if it does, churches can still go on. They will have to make major financial adjustments. But that’s the thing, will true Christians stand up and help their own churches financially? That’s a bigger question. Or will they watch them go bankrupt and then lament government overreach?

  • monica

    Thank you for this article.

  • Chris in Maryland

    Answer: both.

  • An astonishing article; thank you.

    • The Explorer

      Hear! Hear!

  • There were four very clear prophetic statements in Humanae Vitae back in 1968. Their accuracy is staggering.

    Infidelity and moral decline – The Pope noted that the widespread use of contraception would “lead to conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality.”

    A loss of respect for women – the Pope argued that “the man” will lose respect for “the woman” and “no longer (care) for her physical and psychological equilibrium” and will come to “the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.” The Pope understood that the Church’s teaching on contraception is designed to protect the good of conjugal love. When spouses violate this good, they do not act in accord with their innate dignity and thus they endanger their own happiness. Treating their bodies as mechanical instruments to be manipulated for their own purposes, they risk treating each other as objects of pleasure.

    An abuse of power – the Pope observed that the widespread acceptance of contraception would place a “dangerous weapon… in the hands of those public authorities who take no heed of moral exigencies.”

    Unlimited dominion – the Pope warned that contraception would lead man to think that he had unlimited dominion over his own body. Individuals would become convinced of their rights to control their own bodies and reproduction.

    Pope Paul VI has been proven correct on every count. Indeed, he perhaps failed to see the full hazards wrought by the acceptance of contraception and the separation between sex, conception and the raising children in a life long marriage. Add the modern ‘gender theories’. developments in artificial conception and surrogacy, advances in genetic science, and we are truly in the middle of moral chaos.

  • I_M_Forman

    Paul VI was a prophet in this regards.

  • bigsal175

    Amen, concur; well written. Oh, how far we have fallen…

  • I’m astonished that anyone with a Ph.D could have written something so hideously awful. Who is this mysterious “they” to which we’re repeatedly referred? And where are the sources for any of the imaginary quotes? Practically every rule of persuasive writing has been violated: generalizing, subjectivity posing as “truth”, assumptions. The following may be one of the poorest written sentences I’ve ever read (“They had for a while to forget that they ever said it, but now that the
    Catholic Church has cleaned house, they are forgetting that they forgot
    it, and are starting to sing the same old tune: no harm, none at all,
    not to worry.”) If I were a high school English teacher, I would give this paper a D-. I guess it takes “intellectuals” to be this dumb.