You shall not commit adultery. Ex 20:14; Dt 5:18
You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Mt 5:27-28.
It has been said that the Catholic Church is outdated– that it is NOT in touch with the culture and the morality of the times, particularly as it relates to sexuality. It is interesting to note that ALL Christians (both Protestant and Catholic) held that contraception was morally wrong, up until 1930 when the Anglican Communion decided to permit its use under certain circumstances), as it was commonly held that contraception was an attempt by man to “play GOD”, separating the marital act from its two dimensions, both of which are intrinsically bound together in the natural law. These are the unitive and procreative dimensions of Holy Matrimony. “What GOD has joined together, let no man put asunder” cf. Mk 10:19.
In 1968, Pope Paul VI issued his encyclical, Humanae Vitae, which beautifully articulates the Catholic Church’s teaching on contraception. In brief, if married couples decide for grave reasons to space the birth of children, they have recourse to make use of a woman’s infertile periods. The marital act at these infertile times still maintains the intrinsic dimensions of spousal unity and openess to new life (should GOD bless them with child). In other words, they are living within the bounds of the natural law, and are not setting themselves up as GODS, deciding what is good and what is evil (cf. Gen 3:22)– placing barriers between themselves, denying a true part of themselves to the other.
Pope Paul VI words, speaking of the consequences of “contraception” (Humanae Vitae), have unfortunately come true:
Consequences of Artificial Methods
17. Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.
Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.
In light of the Church’s teaching for natural family planning, the Diocese of Memphis offers classes in this regard. One upcoming class is advertised below:
BILLINGS OVULATION METHOD – If you want a safe, healthy, effective and ecological way to plan your family, come learn the Billings Ovulation Method. The 3 part class series begins Tuesday, March 8th at 7:00pm at The Catholic Center, 5825 Shelby Oaks Dr. $60/couple. Preregistration is required. Www.cdom.org (click on Departments/Pastoral Services/NFP) for brochure/registration form or call Diocese of Memphis NFP Center (901) 373-1285.
Though some may see no difference between natural family planning (NFP) and contraception as it regards perhaps the desired “end” (e.g. the spacing of children in Holy Matrimony), they are quite different in the “means” employed– NFP works within the boundaries of the natural law, while contraception attempts to transgress these boundaries. It is a tragic reality that for one of the most popular forms of contraception (i.e., the birth control pill), early abortions can result.
At the heart of it all, is whether or not man desires to follow GOD’s law, both the natural law, and those expounded by the Church, whom Christ gave authority to teach in his name [cf. Mt.28:18, Jn 14:26]. If man accepts these, and lives by them, GOD’s peace abides in his soul. If man does not accept these, there is no peace– pain, suffering, and seemingly unknown or unconnected evils multiply.
In our Christian vocation, we are called to exercise the virtue of chastity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines Chastity thus:
2337 Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman
2338 The chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love placed in him. This integrity ensures the unity of the person; it is opposed to any behavior that would impair it. It tolerates neither a double life nor duplicity in speech. cf. Mt 5:37
2341 The virtue of chastity comes under the cardinal virtue of temperance, which seeks to permeate the passions and appetites of the senses with reason
2343 Chastity has laws of growth which progress through stages marked by imperfection and too often by sin. “Man . . . day by day builds himself up through his many free decisions; and so he knows, loves, and accomplishes moral good by stages of growth.” FC 34.
2345 Chastity is a moral virtue. It is also a gift from God, a grace, a fruit of spiritual effort. (cf. Gal5:22) The Holy Spirit enables one whom the water of Baptism has regenerated to imitate the purity of Christ. (cf. 1Jn3:3)
Within the Christian vocation, we are free to enter into matrimony, religious, or single life, and radiate Christ in these particular vocations. We are called to be chaste in each of these. It should be intuitive that in the married vocation, chastity reserves the gift of sexuality for the beloved, and no other in the context of Holy Matrimony– entirely in thought, word, and deed, as our Lord describes above (Mt 5:27-28).
Chasity in the single and religious life, takes the form of celibacy, and it is this Christ-like sacrifice of offering the gift of one’s sexuality to the Lord for the sake of the Kingdom, that one more perfectly points the way to Heaven.
For there are eunuchs, who were born so from their mother’s womb: and there are eunuchs, who were made so by men: and there are eunuchs, who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. He that can take, let him take it. Mt 19:12
But I would have you to be without solicitude. He that is without a wife, is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God. But he that is with a wife, is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife: and he is divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin thinketh on the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she that is married thinketh on the things of the world, how she may please her husband. And this I speak for your profit: not to cast a snare upon you; but for that which is decent, and which may give you power to attend upon the Lord, without impediment.1Cor 7:32-35.
Our Lord tells us that they neither marry or are given to marriage in heaven (cf. Mt 22:30), but in this world we have both the married and single/religious lives. Both are necessary in GOD’s plan. Both are beautiful gifts of the People of GOD. One supports the other, the other in turn points to GOD.
May the Lord of Life and Light bless you and yours!!!