What are some of the society consequences of contraception?

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Question: In 1968, Pope Paul VI wrote a tsunami encyclical, Humane Vitae, prohibiting artificial contraception. With oral contraception, there is also an exponential increase in autism. Should not the Church speak on this matter? 

Dr. Joseph Ambrose, via email 

Answer: While I cannot comment directly on medical studies about autism, which I leave to medical journals, it is clear that the widespread use of artificial contraception has had many demonstrably harmful effects. Since the use of contraceptives began on a large basis, promiscuity has increased dramatically, as have sexually transmitted diseases, abortion numbers, single motherhood and a steep decline in the number of marriages. Some will argue that correlation is not causation, but the numbers changed suddenly and dramatically at the same time contraceptive use increased. 

Less clear, but seemingly connected are other distortions in the understanding of human sexuality. Since the contraceptive mentality is that there is no necessary connection between having sex and having babies, sex becomes unmoored from its essential purpose. If it is not about having children, many no longer see why it should remain in marriage, an institution ordered to the proper raising of children. It soon becomes an undefined behavior rooted in pleasure or whatever the participants say it means to them. Next, homosexual acts became seen by many as having the same value as heterosexual acts. This has in turn distorted the meaning of marriage. We did not so much “redefine” marriage as undefine it. Further, the very fact of being male or female no longer has the same relevance in terms of sexuality, and it degenerates into a vague notion of “gender,” which many insist on seeing as “fluid” rather than assigned at conception. While such observations are disputed by some, it is clear that much confusion has resulted from the notion that there is no necessary connection between sex and procreation. We have separated what God has joined; this is never good. 

Msgr. Charles Pope

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. at blog.adw.org. Send questions to msgrpope@osv.com.