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Prophetic document could teach our politicians more about God’s loving plan

By Anthony Horan, director of the Catholic Parliamentary Office

Last week, Penny Mordaunt (above), the UK Govenment’s International development secretary, told the Daily Telegraph that ‘a lack of control over their own bodies or access to reproductive healthcare including contraception’ meant girls had no hope of an education.

She said it was crucial to ‘engage with faith leaders to help us challenge deeply held beliefs and attitudes.’

Ms Mordaunt was speaking following a meeting with Vatican officials in Rome that focussed on development in Africa.

First and foremost, the Church will always declare that contraception is wrong. Pope Paul VI’s landmark encyclical letter Humanae Vitae, published in 1968, reemphasised the Church’s constant teaching that it is always intrinsically wrong to use contraception to prevent new human beings from coming into existence.

The Church takes seriously her duty to protect life and has affirmed that the illicitness of contraception is an infallible doctrine: it cannot and will not be changed. Contraception is anti-life. It is an extremely serious matter and it needs a robust, pro-life response.

Contraception is a deliberate violation of God’s design, or the ‘natural law.’ The natural law purpose of sex is procreation, which much is obvious.

Sadly, however, our sex-obsessed society has conveniently disconnected the sexual act from procreation, removing the ‘threat’ of children to selfishly engage in sexual activity without consequence.

Humanae Vitae was published at a time when the world was basking in the so-called ‘freedom’ of the sexual revolution and the ‘birth’ of the contraceptive pill. But Pope Paul VI could see problems. He predicted grave consequences from the widespread and unrestrained use of contraception.

His prophetic words are relevant today: “How wide and easy a road would be opened up towards conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality.”

He suggested that men, in particular, would be vulnerable to infidelity and provides a sharp warning that men ‘growing used to the employment of anti-conception practices, may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.’

These prophetic words have been fulfilled. Nobody could deny that contraception has led to sexual infidelity and broken marriages and families.

Interestingly, Ms Mordaunt said that family planning was a vital part of the UK Government’s work in Africa ‘to help them build their nations,’ work that would ‘save lives and huge suffering.’ It’s odd that prevention of new life is seen as an opportunity to ‘build.’ It’s perhaps even more bizarre that she believes contraception would ‘save lives.’

If Ms Mordaunt is interested in family planning and the reproductive health of women she should consider Natural Family Planning (NFP). Accepted by the Church, NFP uses fertility tracking technology so that if a couple wants to have another baby, they can choose to be intimate on a woman’s fertile days.

On the other hand, if they don’t feel ready for another child, they would simply choose to be intimate on an infertile day instead. NFP, which (unlike the pill) doesn’t involve ingesting chemicals, requires both partners to work together to track fertility and to decide when to be intimate. It brings couples closer together and perhaps explains why couples who use NFP have divorce rates of between just one and three percent.

The key with NFP is that the couple remain open to the possibility of children whenever they are intimate.

While God would delight in more new life being brought into the world, the Church accepts that couples may have good reasons for limiting their family size.

St Pope John Paul II spoke of a ‘responsible parenthood’ where couples may have physical, psychological, economic or social reasons for needing to limit family size. This is fine, provided the couple has an unselfish reason for doing so.

Of course not every sexual act will result in a child, but each act expresses the promise of the wedding vow to give one’s whole self to one’s spouse, and to one’s spouse alone, until death. The truth is, you love your spouse so much that you will hold nothing back. You will give them your whole self in this intimate encounter.

Contraception holds something back; it says to your spouse: “I love you but I’m not prepared to give you my whole self.”

Contraception results in people treating sex as simply a pleasurable activity and not necessarily for children or marriage. What should be a perfect coming together of two married people in an act of pure unconditional love suddenly becomes conditional. Indeed, one might question whether it is love at all.

Contraception has contributed to increasing infidelity, increasing divorce rates and the breakdown of the family. It is disastrous for society.

Ms Mordaunt may want the Church to change her teaching on contraception, but the Church will continue to stand up for unconditional, selfless marital love and an openness to the perfection of God’s Creation found in precious new life.

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