Artificial Contraception? No!

The Beauty of Human Sexuality

Over the last three weeks, I have tried to explain – by outlining sociological, medical and moral concerns – some of the reasons that the Church has consistently taught that artificial contraception violates the dignity of the human person. In this brief article, I would rather focus on the “other side of the coin’”: what the Church teaches about the beauty of human sexuality within the context of a holy, healthy marriage. Far from bringing in secular sources for this article, I would rather summarize one particular document issued by the Pontifical Council for the Family entitled “The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality.” It can be found here:
Althought the document is very lengthy, I want to focus on three points: (1) the call to love; (2) true love and chastity; and (3) the Christian vocation.

What is the “call” to love? Since mankind is made in the image of God, each of us is called to love. And the meaning of love is revealed to us in the inner life of the Trinity: “God is love.” (1 Jn 4:8). God lives in a mystery of personal loving communion between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And since God created the human race in His own image, love is the “fundamental and innate vocation of every human being.” Because of this, a person is capable of a higher love than mere sexual attraction, which can reduce other persons to being objects to satisfy one’s own appetites. This can be seen in the love expressed in friendships and in loving care for others (self-Giving). True love desires the “good” for another person because he or she is also made in God’s image and worthy of being love. Selfish love is when our primary reason for loving others is how it affects us.

This is not to say that sexual love is “bad” in any way. As man and woman, we are called to love in the unity of body and soul. Femininity and masculinity are complementary gifts that God has inscribed in us. Sexuality is a vital and necessary component of us as human beings, and self-giving of sexuality is part of the very mystery of creation. It is a truth that stands at the very center of the Christian reality. In the self-giving of marriage, we become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4) by which we participate in the creation of children – other human beings made in God’s image and likeness. And that brings us to (2): true love and chastity.
The word “chastity” comes from a Latin adjective meaning “pure.” It is used in opposition to the deadly sin of lust. An essential element of chastity is “self mastery” over one’s urges. Either a person governs one’s passions and finds peace, or one allows oneself to be dominated by one’s passion and becomes unhappy.

It is important in this context to understand the meaning of “chastity,” which is different between married and unmarried people. Virginal love and married love are the two forms in which a person’s call to love is fulfilled. Since sexual love is ordered by its nature to the mutual self-giving of fertility, it only becomes truly human when it is integrated into the complete and mutual lifelong gift of a man and a woman. Therefore, in the context of marriage, man and woman are called to “conjugal chastity” in that their sexual relationship is reserved for each other and excludes the possibility of sexual intimacy with others. Unmarried people practice chastity in “continence,” meaning refraining from sexual activity. Since the human purpose of sexuality is the self-giving of all of the human person, including fertility, sexual intimacy outside of marriage provides neither the permanent commitment that is expected of total self-giving, nor does it provide the community or love (or example) so vital to the health and holiness of children. It should be obvious that the modern world often devalues chastity in favor of a false freedom that convinces us to seek the satisfaction of any and all earthly urges. As taught by St. Paul, chastity requires rejecting certain thoughts, words and sinful actions. (Rom. 1:18; 6: 12-14; 1 Cor. 6: 9-11; 2 Cor. 7: 1; Gal. 5: 16-23; Eph. 4: 17-24; 5: 3-13; Col. 3: 5-8; 1 Thess. 4: 1-18; 1 Tim. 1: 8-11; 4: 12). Self-mastery is a sign of inner freedom and of responsibility towards oneself and others.

In marriage Christians are called to live their self-giving in a right personal relationship with God. There is no legitimate love which is not also love for God. And to love the Lord means to respond positively to His commandments: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jn. 14:15).

And that leads us to (3): the Christian vocation. The Second Vatican Council stressed a “universal call to holiness”: “All the faithful, whatever their condition or state ”” though each in his own way ”” are called by the Lord to that perfection of sanctity by which the Father Himself is perfect.” One might be called to married love or one might be called to virginal love. But formation for true love is always the best preparation for the vocation to either married love or virginal love. That being said, marriage is not “the effect of chance or the product of evolution of unconscious natural forces; it is the wise institution of the Creator to realize in mankind His design of love. By means of the reciprocal personal gift of self, proper and exclusive to them, husband and wife tend towards the communion of their beings in view of mutual personal perfection, to collaborate with God in the generation and education of new lives.” And married love has four characteristics: it is human (physical and spiritual), total, faithful and fruitful. These characteristics are founded on the fact that "In marriage man and woman are so firmly united as to become, to use the words of the Book of Genesis ”” one flesh.”

Since each human person is a product of the self-giving act of human sexuality, it is within the context of marriage that true love must be taught. As Pope John Paul expressed, Christian parents ought: “devote special attention and care to education in virginity or celibacy as the supreme form of that self-giving that constitutes the very meaning of human sexuality.” Within the self-giving community of marriage, a child is free to respond his or her own vocation to either marriage or virginity (even as a priest or religious). As the Holy Father continues: “if parents do not give adequate formation in chastity, they are failing in their precise duty. Likewise, they would also be guilty were they to tolerate immoral or inadequate formation being given to their children outside the home.”

The purpose of life is to love God above all things and our neighbors as ourselves. The world’s understanding of “love” is often misleading. God’s idea of love is true.