.,  Catholics Do What?,  Contraception,  JPII,  Pornography,  Sex,  Theology of the Body

Contraception and the Catholic Church: {part 2} What’s wrong with contraception?

Yesterday we began with a little overview of the historical background on the practice of contraception and how for 1,900+ years, Christianity uniformly condemned the practice. Today we’re going to delve into the why behind it: why when the rest of the world has heralded the Pill as a technological innovation on par with electricity and the internal combustion engine (seriously, read some of the UN’s documents on women’s rights) Rome has stubbornly refused to capitulate on the matter.

And it’s not because the Church is anti woman. It is, in fact, because She holds women in such high regard and is so intimately concerned with the dignity of women – and men – that She continues to firmly, gently, uncompromisingly say “no.”

It’s the same reason I say no to my kids when they bolt in parking lots and run blindly into the street after a stray soccer ball. It’s the same motivation that compels me to store poison up high and restrict certain media content from entering our home.

I love them.

I love them enough to say no to them even when they’re really, really sure the thing they want to do is worth doing, and is a good to be pursued.

I don’t want them to get hurt, and if I know better, as the wiser, older, well-formed and properly instructed parent, I say no.

Even when it frustrates them. Even when they tantrum.

Because their ultimate happiness is tied to their wholeness and their health, body and soul, and I won’t permit them to inflict self harm in pursuit of a temporary perceived good when I know the long-term cost is one of destruction and heartache.

So what, exactly, is wrong with contraception?

Contraception is anti life because it opposes the creation of new life physically, by preventing fertilization or by means of preventinve sterilization, but it’s also anti life because many popular forms of contracption are actually abortifacient in nature, meaning they are capable of causing early abortions as a secondary line of defense against pregnancy.

Some examples of this are IUDs, the Depo Provera shot, and certain forms of the Pill, including but not limited to the so called “Morning After” pill.

But even those forms of contraception that aren’t capable of causing abortions – condoms or diaphrams or the good old-fashioned withdrawal method, – they’re still anti-life. They still strip away the procreative aspect from sex, and as we understand as Catholics, sex has two fundamental purposes: it is both procreative and unitive.

And in its perfect design, sex is good. It’s very good. There’s no question about it.

Because sex is fundamentally ordered to bring forth new life – it’s literally how God is writing the story of Salvation History, how He continues to bring new life into the world – it is intended to unite and bond the spouses.

So sex is supposed to feel good. It’s supposed to be wildly delightful and desirable. And it is fundamentally ordered toward the creation of new human life. Not every sexual act will result in new life, nor is every act capable of doing so (read: any biology textbook explaining the human reproductive cycle, paying particular attention to the female body) but God designed sex to bring forth babies. Not every time, but a lot of the time. And the Creator of sex – and of people – is the One who has the ultimate say so.

St. JPII was the master of interpretting – and putting into laymen terms – Christian sexual ethics. His early work “Love and Responsibility,” written when he was still Karol Wojtyla, includes sections on mutual enjoyment and sexual satisfaction between spouses that could make a public school health teacher blush. So forget anything you’ve heard about the Church – or God – being anti-sex.

God created sex, and He created sex in order to continue creating us. Think about that!

It’s the only way He chooses to bring new souls into being. So of course it’s an area of life where we are particularly vulnerable to attacks from the enemy, and to our own concupiscience.

God doesn’t surround us with rules and regulations governing the sexual realm because He’s some kind of cosmic killjoy – it’s because sex is so good and so holy, and because it’s where we participate with Him, directly and intimately, in creating the world anew.

But how do you explain this to someone?

It’s a tough pill to swallow in a culture like ours, so obsessed with the idea of sex but with limited experience with the thing itself.

We’ve got plenty of experience with pornography, with sexually explicit content, with sexual innuendo … but with real sex? With the profound communion of persons, united in the sacramental love of spouses, freely giving and receiving the entirety of the Other?

We aren’t as familiar with that.

Our culture styles itself as sexually free and fulfilled, but to look around is to recognize the price we’re paying for this apparent freedom, as individiuals and as a larger community.

Sex, “freed” from the bonds of marriage and the responsibility of parenthood, is actually fairly disastrous. Particularly to women and children.

Rather than making us – especially women – more free, contraception has resulted in deeper slavery – sometimes literally as we witness in the growing global scourge of human trafficking (which is fundamentally enabled by and dependent upon the availability and effectiveness of contraception), and sometimes solely on a spiritul level, no less real, but often unseen and unacknowledged.

Because sex, divorced from love, divorced from its life-giving potential…is just another bodily function. An exchange of fluids and pleasantries, and an opportunity to use and to be used; perhaps with a stranger or perhaps with your spouse.

And this is the antithesis of what God designed it for, designed us for – to give and to receive love.

And in each of those scenarios I mentioned above – the one night stand, the casual relationship, the paid transaction – made possible by the availabilty of contracption, there is damage done to both the relationship and the participants.

Because in reality?

There is no such thing as casual sex.

There is no such thing as protected sex.

And there is no such thing as “safe” sex.

Sex isn’t casual, even if the two (or more!) constenting parties spit shake and swear on it. You can’t unhitch a thing from its meaning just by saying so.

And since sex is not a human innovation but a divine invention, purposefully and intelligently designed for us and for our good…we’re not the ones who get to write the user’s maual on it.

Stay tuned for later this week when we’ll talk about the hard cases, the heartache of infertility, and the fundamental difference between NFP – Natural Family Planning – and contraception.

contraception and the catholic church


{click here for part 1 in the series}






  • Gigi

    Another great post today!!! So thankful you are doing this!! I’ve had my own struggles trying to explain this to my own mother, who was on birth control for many years, and then having to explain to her that I would be using NFP when I get married. After dealing with “jokes” that I would have 10+ kids (which is not totally up to me and my future spouse anyway), I turned to Mary and my mother has thankfully been understanding and supportive ever since.

    Am I a little nervous about embarking on that part of my life? A bit. But I’m thankful to have future in-laws who are very knowledgable about the Church and its teachings (my future father-in-law is a Deacon at my university’s parish!). And, as difficult as it can be sometimes to give everything up to God, he has the ultimate say, and I’ve been the most joyful and peaceful when I fully let Him in and let me be the hands and feet, so to speak.

    As a 22-year-old Catholic woman who has many friends who are on the Pill and engaging in things that are bringing them further away from the Lord, I’ve wanted to be able to have open discussions about why and how God created sex for the purpose of human life. And as I will no doubt have to explain to people why I’m getting married at such a “young” age, I hope to just tell and show them that this is my vocation, prayed about very carefully, and that the Lord wants me to be a mom and all good things are done through Him.

    God is good.

    Sorry for all of the tangents! You are awesome!!

    Gigi, NJ

    • Meg

      Just wanted to say that I married at 20, and have heard ALL the jokes about how we’re going to have 15 kids, etc. We’ve been married for four years so far and have two beautiful boys who have added more joy to our lives than I could have ever imagined. I’m looking forward to any more babies God wants to send our way!
      Congratulations on your upcoming wedding, I’ll say a prayer for you and your future spouse. <3

  • Evie

    I so enjoy your writing and you have a great voice for spreading the good news of Catholic moral teaching. I do, however, question the value of supporting the Church’s teaching with statements like, “Contraception is anti life because it opposes the creation of new life physically, by preventing fertilization or by means of preventinve sterilization, but it’s also anti life because many popular forms of contracption are actually abortifacient in nature, meaning they are capable of causing early abortions as a secondary line of defense against pregnancy.” This theory is very popular, but unproven and not consistent with the science. (See this rather in-depth discussion by pro-life physicians http://www.aaplog.org/position-and-papers/oral-contraceptive-controversy/hormone-contraceptives-controversies-and-clarifications/) But, more importantly, it is not even part of the Church’s moral objection to contraception. If anything, it would be part of the Church’s moral teaching on abortion, but it is not since the Church allows for theraputic use of hormonal contraceptives. Making statements about the “abortifacient nature” of the pill creates a logical disconnect with the teaching against contraception. Namely, that the moral objection is the potential killing of pre-born babies. I think this is why some of the pro-life Protestants can’t understand why sterilization and condoms are out. Instead, the Church teaches against all contraception for the reasons you clearly outlined in this and the last post. I dislike the use of the “abortifacient” argument because it is not harmonious with the Church’s teaching and because there is legitimate use of hormonal contraceptives for other-than-contraception purposes, which can create a culture that is alienating to those who have problems that can be managed with the pill and who do not have access/means to get help from NaPro. Just my two cents. I’m not looking to start an internets war. I’m really looking forward to the next installment.

    • Jenny Uebbing

      I’m glad you’re enjoying it Evie, thanks for reading! I do want to challenge your research though, as it’s been proven again and again that hormonal contraception and IUDs are definitely capable of and do cause early abortions. You can ask a pharmacist for some of the literature that accompanies either Mira or Ella or (definitely) Plan B if you want to read it for yourself, straight from the source. It’s actually in the companies’ accompanying medical literature.

      I can also correlate the claim because our family physician, who also delivers babies, is one of a few locally who will attempt to (and has had several successful outcomes) reverse the effects of RU-486 (Levonorgestrel) for women who change their minds after having taken the initial dose using a progesterone protocol to offset the effects of the mifepristone and support the endangered pregnancy.

      So I’m not sure why you’re convinced the Church is wrong to mention to the abortifacient nature of some forms of contraception? It’s pretty well founded scientifically, and while it’s not the only reason She opposes contraception nor is it even the primary reason, it’s for sure important enough to mention.

      • Jennifer

        I think you are mistaking the abortion pill, like RU-486, for the Plan B morning after pill. Plan B does NOT contain the drug mifepristone and does not abort an existing pregnancy. It is used within 72 hours after an oops to prevent pregnancy. In fact, it is a very high dose of the pill’s components–estorgen and progesterone. So, there is no way to reverse the effects of the morning after pill since there is nothing to reverse. Really hope your doc isn’t purporting to do this. Mifepristone is the main drug I believe in RU-486, which is used for existing pregnancies as chemical abortificient. I have to agree with Evie on all this–it is not scientifically founded really. I am a Catholic who does my best to practice NFP but I still cringe when I see pseudo-science on contraception. We need to be honest and factual; otherwise we come off as unbelievable.

        • Jenny Uebbing

          yes, sorry, Tia caught that typo already! Morning After pill (Levonorgestrel) is not the same as RU-486, which is the one my doc has able to reverse the effects of (successfully, I might add – 3 precious babies saved) with progesterone in some cases. Thanks for the correction, pregnancy brain is a b.

      • Evie

        Jenny, I don’t object to some people bringing up the abortifacient nature of abortifacient “birth control.” For instance, a copper IUD is intended to “slough off” a fertilized egg, i.e. kill a pre-born human. However, the idea oral contraceptives like combined or progesterone only pills cause a pre-implantation abortion is simply not good science. The medical literature warns that the endometrium will be thinned by the hormones. However, one only needs to use their good, old NaPro reasoning to see that if there are sufficient hormones to ovulate, there would be sufficient hormones to enrich the endometrium. In other words, if you can defeat the design to ovulate, it will also defeat the design to thin the endometrium. This is because the endometrium responds to the same hormones that cause ovulation. Hormonal contraceptives work to suppress ovulation and change the cervical mucus. We all know, even though conventional doctors won’t let on, that it is really all in the mucus. The idea of pre-implantation abortion is not well researched nor has it been proven over and over. All that has been proven is that where ovulation is suppressed, you will also find a thinned out endometrium.

        While our Bishops have drawn attention to the fact that the use of hormonal contraceptives may not be the best treatment simply because it only manages symptoms instead of curing the underlying problem, the Church does not oppose the therapeutic use of contraceptives. (See http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/love-and-sexuality/index.cfm#medical) This would be inconceivable if the objection was that the contraception was abortifacient in nature. It is not.

        I called attention to this part of your argument because, while it is promoted widely by people inside the Church, the Church has not prohibited these non-abortifacient contraceptives for therapeutic use. Just as infertility is a hidden disease, there are women who deal with pretty intense symptoms and are just not able to either be effectively treated by NaPro or afford/have access to a NaPro provider. For these women, consideration of hormonal treatment may be a legitimate means of managing their symptoms. These broad sweeps regarding the abortifacient nature of some “contraceptives” may tend to hurt or alienate women who do have these types of issues.

        • Jenny Uebbing

          I 100% agree that to use hormonal contraceptives for therapeutic medical purposes is, of course, not immoral, though there are some caveats I’ll touch on in a minute. However, the critical distinction is that we seem to disagree on the possibility that hormonal contraception is capable of producing an aboritfacient effect. That is clearly demonstrated in medical literature, but then, so can the opposite be, because it’s really possible to find a study to back up whatever you want to believe, at the end of the day. If there’s even a slight chance that the Pill is potentially abortifacient (and in actuality the chance is much more than slight), then the only possible moral option is abstinence during its use.

          I’m not sure there’s anything else I can say to convince you of the reality of the above as a possibility, but for a married couple using contraption for the wife’s health, they’d have to be abstaining during use of it anyway to avoid the contraceptive effect. Even if its being used for completely licit, medical purposes, there would still be a need for period abstinence during use since it is, in fact, going to affect her body as a contraceptive even though it isn’t being taken primarily for that purpose, right? Even if you toss the abortion piece of it aside.

          • Evie

            Jenny, would you please provide a source showing the pre-implantation abortifacient nature of hormonal contraceptives. Also, please clarify what you are talking about with regard to abstinence with legitimate use of the pill and a source. I have never read something from the bishops saying that a woman who is using hormonal contraceptives to manage symptoms is obliged to abstain if she is married. It was my understanding that this fell under double effect.

          • Jenny Uebbing

            Evie, I did supply that source by suggesting you obtain and read the inserts that come directly from the pharmaceutical companies explaining the side effects and outcomes associated with taking those particular contraceptives, but you indicated that information was incorrect? I’m not sure what else I can offer aside from the manufacturer’s own data.

            I did consult a friend of mine who is a canon lawyer and posed to him your question re: double effect, and it looks like you were spot on with that one. But, he made an important caveat that if the drug is potentially abortifacient, as these drugs are, abstinence would be required. Here’s his response:

            “Medication or medical treatment that impedes fertility can be legitimately taken, while a couple continues to enjoy a conjugal life. Medication or medical treatment with even the risk of an abortifacient effect excludes the possibility of a conjugal life.”

            and then this quote from Humane Vitae: 15.” On the other hand, the Church does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there from—provided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever”

          • Evie

            Hi Jenny, thanks for continuing this conversation with me. I do appreciate your time. I do not feel like you have quite understood my scientific objection. My objection is only to saying/implying that the combined pills and progesterone only pills do actually function as abortifacients. I hold this objection because, while all agree that the endometrium is demonstrably thinner in women who are using these types of contraceptives, it has not been proven that a thinned out endometrium acts as a “back up” when there is a on-pill ovulation. This is what I mean by pre-implantation abortion. The endometrium is thinned out when the contraceptive hormones are working as intended, but the same mechanism that thins out the endometrium also suppresses ovulation. To wit, the pamphlet info for Yasmin, a combination pill often used for women dealing with PCOS to suppress ovulation and thus the pain associated with cyst formation, describes “12.1 Mechanism of Action – COCs lower the risk of becoming pregnant primarily by suppressing ovulation. Other possible mechanisms may include cervical mucus changes that inhibit sperm penetration and endometrial changes that reduce the likelihood of implantation.” It is listed as a possibility because it is known that an enriched endometrium is the best place for implantation and that unhealthy endometriums can result in not having implantation, e.g. in women with adenomyosis or endomtriosis. What is not known and what is, in fact, contrary to what we know about endocrinology, is whether a woman who is taking hormones to suppress ovulation and yet produces enough hormones to ovulate could simultaneously have the thinned out endometrium associated with women whose ovulation is being suppressed. Why don’t we know this? First, just think about what would be required to find out. You would have to have a number of women with on-pill ovulation to study – the pills are pretty good at suppressing ovulation, so this would be a hard group to find and it would be hard to identify ahead of time which women would have on-pill ovulations. Then, you would have to ensure that they all had sufficiently healthy cervical mucus so that sperm could even get to those eggs. You’d have to know that fertilization had happened. Then, you could finally look at the rates at which these tiny humans were miscarried/failed to implant. It’s just not possible right now. So, what is possible? Hypothesizing. As I said, no one argues that the enodmetriums of women on hormonal birth control are thinned out. But, those women also have very low rates of ovulation. We don’t know what on-pill ovulating women’s endometriums look like. But, we do know that the same hormones that are responsible for ovulation are also responsible for enriching the endometrium. So, it stands to reason that if you ovulate, you also have the possibility of having a hospitable endometrium. (See, the article I referenced in my first post.) Beyond all of that, we know that you need good cervical mucus to assist the sperm in reaching the egg (Thanks, NFP!). So, a couple using the pill could probably feel pretty high confidence in avoiding the threat of a thinned out endometrium by simply monitoring her cervical mucus. Although I feel like I’ve made clear which methods I am talking about, I will reiterate that those methods whose main function is to render the endometrium hostile, like copper IUDs which work to irritate the endometrium both to prevent sperm flow and implantation, are not what I’m talking about. Instead, for women with endometriosis, adenomyosis, or PCOS whose pain is not addressed by herbal treatments, natropaths, etc. may be able to have their symptoms managed with the pill. If the pill addressed their symptoms effectively (not always true), they could use the pills licitly because the bishops have described the situation where management of symptoms as the intended use of hormonal contraceptives is licit so long as there is no contraceptive intention. By this very language, it is clear that the couple would still be engaging in intercourse. Otherwise, the intent of the couple would not be an issue. All couples are allowed to avoid the potential fertilization of an egg by abstinence. Also, the couple can, with the help of NFP, continue to be aware of whether they are having a breakthrough ovulation and avoid any risk of the thinned out endometrium with corresponding abstinence. That said, there is no scientific proof that when the mechanism of hormonal contraceptives that suppresses ovulation fails, the thinned out endometrium persists and results in a pre-implantation abortion. And, what is known about the hormonal processes involved in ovulation and endometrium enrichment renders the theory of a thinned out endometirum persisting in the face of sufficient hormones to produce ovulation suspect. Thus, my scientific objection to using the “abortifacient nature” of hormonal contraceptives in support of the Church’s teaching against contraception. My philosophical objection is simply that the Church’s teaching against contraception is not based on the abortifacient nature of contraception. But, I think you caught my drift on that one, even if we didn’t agree. Again, thanks for your time. This is an interesting discussion.

        • Nick from Detroit

          If I may interject, the only question that is relevant to the teaching of Christ’s Church is whether, or not, it is at all possible for hormonal contraceptives to cause an abortion to occur, thus killing a human being. Not how likely it is to happen.
          You seem to have acknowledged that it is possible. In that case, the only choice left for a Christian is to abstain from the marital act until the treatments are over, or, find another medicine to treat the pain.
          To continue to have marital relations when you know that it could/might result in the death of your child is highly irresponsible, and sinful. Just as shooting a gun into the air is highly unlikely to injure or kill someone, it still demonstrates a complete disregard for the safety of others and constitutes reckless endangerment. Which is why it’s a crime. God Bless!

  • Ashley

    I am in awe of your ability to educate on very complicated issues.

    I think I will just save this and read it verbatim whenever I get in a difficult discussion about contraception.

    Thank you.

    • Cami

      I totally concur. I cannot pull off this type of clarity, honesty, and truth without sounding too militant and scaring people away. Jenny has a gift.

    • Tia

      Hi Jenny,
      What’s in the literature that goes along with hormonal contraception is incorrect. it was given based on an assumed mechanism of action before they did studies, where they compared pregnancy rates between women who did and did not use Plan B (which contain the synthetic estrogen ethinyl estradiol and the synthetic progestin levonorgestrel). They found that pregnancy rates in the former group were consistent with what you would expect if the pill acted to prevent ovulation or possibly fertilization, but not consistent with it preventing a fertilized egg from implantation. Copper IUDs are a different matter, but there is no evidence that hormonal contraception leads to fertilized eggs not implanting — at least, any more than, say, drinking wine or coffee or the gazillion other normal things you do in life that might, theoretically, in some very very very rare cases, lessen the chance of implantation. Also, to clarify, Plan B is not mifepristone, which is one of the medicines (along with misoprostol) used in medical (pill) based abortion. Here is a link to some information on that, along with sources cited.

      • Jenny Uebbing

        I’ve been told by plenty of doctors nurse midwives and have read numerous studies that explicitly state hormonal contraceptives can and do cause abortions, so I guess we’re at a bit of an impasse. And you’re correct, Plan B is Levonorgestrel – I’ll correct the typo.

        I appreciate your persistence!

    • Evie

      No, Nick, how strong the possibility is really is part of the consideration. I’m not going to post again because I’ve pretty much said my say. Instead, I will just leave you with what the Bishops have actually said about this. “Is there ever a time “contraceptives” may be used for medical reasons? Catholic teaching does not oppose the use of hormonal medications – such as those found in chemical contraceptives – for legitimate medical purposes, provided there is no contraceptive intent. Can some methods of birth control cause abortion? By contrast, hormonal methods such as the Pill may work in several ways. They can suppress ovulation or alter cervical mucus to prevent fertilization, and thus act contraceptively. But they may at times have other effects, such as changes to the lining of the uterus. If the contraceptive action fails and fertilization takes place, these hormonal methods may make it impossible for a newly conceived life to implant and survive. That would be a very early abortion. Medical opinions differ on whether or how often this may occur. Currently there is no way to know precisely how these drugs work at any given time in an individual woman. Concern about the risk of causing an early abortion is stronger in the case of pills taken after intercourse to prevent pregnancy (“emergency contraception” or “morning-after pills”). In some cases these pills are taken when sperm and egg have already joined to create a new life, in which case the drug could not have any effect except to cause an early abortion.” So, yes, that there is an unknown concerning whether hormonal contraceptives actually do cause an abortion (something I did not conceed if you read my posts wherein I talked about theoretical and not actual possibilities, in concert with what can be scientifically demonstrated) does play into whether the pill can be used for medicinal purposes under the principle of double effect. Thanks again for the discussion. I always appreciate the great world of folks who are devoted to the Church and her moral authority.

      • Nick from Detroit

        Thank you, for your thoughtful response. I almost missed it!
        From the moral point of view, about which the Church is most concerned, it is sinful to take such a risk with another person’s life. Again, I go back to my shooting a gun in the air analogy. The odds of killing someone are extremely low, but, it’s highly immoral to commit such an act, do you not agree? If it’s at all possible that they might cause an abortion, every caution should be taken to make sure that never happens, should it not?
        I’m neither a physician, nor a canon lawyer, so I can’t discuss the technical details as well as you can. But, I’ve heard doctors, and other experts, say that while it’s permissible to use hormonal contraceptives for legitimate medical reasons, that doesn’t give the couple permission to use the medical problem as a loop-hole to have unfettered marital relations. I’ve also heard, as Mrs. Uebbing has noted, that there are better ways to treat menstrual cramping pain, rather than overdosing on synthetic hormones. Barbara McGuigan, of EWTN radio, talks about this all the time.
        Married couples are called to live a chaste life, too. They should strive to live as Christ wants them to live. God Bless!

  • Alli

    I guess my only comment on this is that I’m not on the pill to enable me to have sex with less fear of pregnancy. I’m on it because it reduces my period cramps that have sent me to the ER and made it impossible for me to function, let alone move. I am happily a virgin so if I’m not having sex and my pill is to provide relief from that horrible of pain…how could what I be doing be so anti-life for me? If I could have some clarification on that, and if any of you have a better alternative than the pill for my cramps, that would be great! Thank you 🙂

    • Jenny Uebbing

      Well you’re definitely in the right in terms of moral law, since contraception can only function in a contraceptive capacity when the user is sexually active. So no worries about a hormone therapy being intrinsically immoral when you’re not capable of conceiving new life to begin with.

      Some of my closest friends have suffered from debilitating endometriosis (not sure if that’s your problem specifically, but it sounds like it could be) and my heart goes out to you for your suffering – it’s so painful. I would strongly encourage you to find a NaPro provider in your area (or even consult with one remotely if you don’t have someone within driving distance) because there is so much that can be done to address some really debilitating conditions like endo, PCOS, etc, that lots of old school gynecologists won’t even consider because the Pill has become such a knee jerk prescription. Definitely check to see if you have someone nearby: http://www.fertilitycare.org

    • Caroline

      Regarding the use of the pill to help combat the pain suffered from cramps during mensturation, I agree that it does help take away the cramping; however, don’t think that you have to be on it long term to keep the pain at bay. Have you tried going off for a period of time to see you need to stay on the pill? Also, the side effects of the pill can be pretty scary. I whole heartedly regret ever being on the pill, though it did help the cramping pains while I was on it. Since I have been off it, my periods and cramping are no longer an impediment.

    • Ari

      Also, note that in cases where the pill is used strictly for medical reasons (not for contraceptive reasons), the Church allows it. Intention is key, and the couple is not required to abstain in that case. Though, I echo others’ sentiments in encouraging other avenues to solve this problem besides the pill.

      • Mel

        Ari, I don’t believe that is right. The couple using contraception as a pain killer are still morally culpable. knowing that many forms of artificial birth control work as abortifacients, the couples that do not abstain can conceive and terminate pregnancies. Even if this is not the “intention” it still is extremely grave matter and in no way are endometriosis and pcos and pms life or death issues. much research has been done to prove that birth control pills are not effective in healing the body; instead they serve as “bandaids”.

    • Cami

      Alli, I also have very painful periods. I had endometriosis treated which did help some. I also have 2 small cysts on my uterine wall which contribute to pain and heavy bleeding. I use high doses of Ibuprofen which help with pain and bleeding (under doctor’s care). But I have been treated with the help of charting my cycles using the Creighton method which is very helpful in identifying problems with your reproductive health. I also am low in progesterone (not producing enough) which was discovered in charting and can cause longer periods of bleeding. No joke, I had bleeding everyday for 3 years at one point before I was diagnosed by charting and getting with truly good doctors that are trained in NaproTechnology. The fertilityCare website Jenny posted for you will let you know of any providers in your area. Difficult periods are usually a sign of something going on. What the mainstream medical world does is use the birth control pill to help mask symptoms of a bigger problem. But the goal should be to find out the true problem and work on correcting it naturally, not with steroidal synthetic hormones. Best wishes to you!

      • Cami

        I should add that I began charting as a single, chaste woman simply to troubleshoot cycle issues. You don’t need to (and shouldn’t) wait until you’re married to chart cycles. I’ve had 3 beautiful babies since the endometrial treatment. I’m in my late 30s and had my baby girl 3 mo ago, so endometriosis does not mean you’re infertile! Many women are told that, however by non pro-life doctors.

  • Peter913

    Contraception and abortion have assulted the womb; and the emptyness of the Tabernacles of Humanity is killing America’s soul.

  • AJ

    I think it is so important to understand that the unitive aspect of sex is firmly hinged to the procreative. As someone who didn’t always grasp that, I’m really glad there is someone like you to address it with the wit and wisdom that you do. Excellent post. 🙂

  • Donjohn

    I read the article and I feel myself a bit dazed. It starts off with equating the church to a parent saying no to protect their kid, but kids grow up and parents stop saying no. Sometimes the roles are reversed and the adult child says no to the parent.

    The article mentions a perfect word but we don’t live in a perfect world. In our perfect world fantasy, the Duggars would be held up as Demi gods but in our world, supporting 20 kids would be next to impossible. Based on the article, if God decides six kids is what your gonna get, those six kids may be destined to a life of poverty or worse. Historically, children were viewed as assets, cheap labor for our agrarian society. The more the merrier. They no longer are an economic asset, as I’m sure my parents would attest to and I can attest regarding my children.

    The article moved back and forth between marital and non marital sex, which was extremely confusing because it changes the context of the sex for which one would be using contraception. Sex outside of marriage offers a whole set of circumstances that marital sex does not. The sex is often times coerced, forced to include rape, sometimes economic in nature. I couldn’t get from the article how a perfect world scenario of contraception could possibly be used in these circumstances without disastrous results.

    Finally, the issue of the spreading of disease. In a perfect world, this would not be an issue but in our world, promiscuity spreads disease. I’m not implying that abstinence isn’t the best policy but we live in a world of sin, much of it forced on others and by the love of the golden calf. The article seems to imply that even in this sinful context, contraception just makes it worse. Call me idealistic but shouldn’t we be at least trying to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases even in this jaded world of promiscuous, casual and forced sex?

    The spreading of disease, even in a marital contex, can be an important issue if one of the partners has a spreadable disease, like HIV or herpes, etc. that may be a small percentage but it’s not as small as one thinks. I would like to see some writing addressing this issue.

    Good article as it got me thinking

    • Nick from Detroit

      The ends can never justify the means. You cannot commit a sin in order to do good. This is basic Catholic teaching. Take it to the extreme: Can you firebomb an African village, infected with Ebola, in order to stop the disease from spreading? Of course not.
      Also, economic factors can never excuse using contraceptives, if one is to remain a disciple of Christ. Being poor is not a sin. Christ said that we would always have the poor with us. If being a Christian entails willing to give your life for Him; surely, giving up a second car, or larger house, would too, would it not? God Bless!

      • Cami

        Great points, NFD! Too many people in our culture (and often taught in some Christian denominations) think suffering is not supposed to happen to us. But as Catholics we embrace that even Christ suffered and we are able to experience suffering so that we may draw closer to him and rely on him to carry our crosses with us, offering peace and rest along the way. My husband and I agreed on a parenting style and family dynamic that means we live simpler than some other families. I stay home to care for our little ones, making their care 1st priority. But living simpler or even being poor doesn’t mean we need to do whatever possible to reverse our circumstances. If anything, it helps us create more virtue in our lives. Jesus was born in a barn. He was a king without a palace. Somehow many of his followers are still seeking to live in palaces of their own, despite his example of humility and modesty. I’m so curious when people turned away from this example and decided that it was financially irresponsible to allow God to guide you in creating what might be a large family. I guess that’s how evil works though… Sneaky, deceptive, and convincing.

        • Nick from Detroit

          Thank you, for your kind words. I appreciate them, very much.
          While I’m not married, my little sisters have both followed Christ’s teaching on remaining open to life in their marriages. One has been blessed with eight children (and she just became a grandma!), and the other had her fifth a little over two years ago.
          Neither are in the poor house, nor, are they rich, either. They’ve had to sacrifice and work hard, but, they’ve also been blessed. God Bless!

  • Gary

    Society as a whole has suffered greatly as the direct result of the artificial contraception. The feminist movement that actually started in the early 1900’s for the betterment of women’s rights such as voting, became corrupted from the likes of Margret Sanger. Morality was already on a slow decline by 1960, but with the legalization of “the pill” morality became an avalanche into what we see today. The destruction of the family being the primary effect of the feminist movement through the exploitation of uninformed women, who looked at the so called sexual freedom as a perceived good, when, in fact, it was no such good at all. The feminist simultaneously campaigned to demonize the “housewife” and motherhood as a form of slavery. Interesting as it is, motherhood has been the bedrock upon which societies have been built upon for thousands of years, with proven results.
    So now, we have millions of children born out of wedlock, depending on the state for their well being with disastrous results, for both the mother and children. Fathers have become the viable “option” as well, sold under the guise of “you can have it all” mantra that unsuspecting women believe. Then there is epidemic rise in STD’s, abuse both sexual as well as emotional women must endure as never before in real numbers. Lastly, is it not interesting that with the inception of the pill, which was to prevent unwanted pregnancies, abortion became a common form of birth control, especially in lower income and black women. The verdict is in and guilty is the conclusion for the feminist of the 20th century, putting women into the chains of slavery they claimed to be against.

    • Donjohn

      I’m not grasping your point. If birth control was being used properly, wouldn’t abortions and out of wedlock children be on the decline? I don’t claim to have the answers but contraception and increased abortions and children doesn’t ring right

      • Jenny Uebbing

        Nope, the exact opposite has proven true. More contraceptive use = more contraceptive failures, which often (not always, but frequently) results in abortion.

        Couples who have recourse to contraception and who are adamantly opposed to a pregnancy often turn to abortion to correct the contraceptive failure. Check out the Guttmacher Institute (Planned Parenthood’s research arm) for lots of evidence of this trend. See also the US census bureau’s data from the past 4 decades post Roe v. Wade and note the sharp uptick in both contraceptive use and abortions per capita. No time to get into it all here, but the research is plentiful if you’re willing to do the work.

        • Donjohn

          I have researched this and i interprete the data very differently. Abortions are down 40% over the last 20 years and 10 to 12 % over the last 4. That’s hardly an increase. You’re right that there’s no time to get into it but the PROPER use of contraceptions will not lead to an increase in birth rates or abortions.

          My guess is that most people don’t use it properly, or not at all (i think that’s the bigger problem), that’s why we still have abortions as birth control and many young mothers.

          • Nick from Detroit

            There is no real “PROPER” use of contraceptives, since, no method is 100% effective. They all have a failure rate, which will result in an unintended pregnancy eventually. The biggest failure is human, of course. After going weeks and months without having to deny themselves, what are the odds the couple is going to refrain when they run out of their preferred method of birth control?
            And, the facts are clear. After the implementation of sex-ed in high schools in the late-1950s, and the permission of “The Pill” for use as a contraception in the early-1960s, the out-of-wedlock birthrate skyrocketed for the next decade. Which resulted in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, i.e., unrestricted abortion.
            Which shouldn’t surprise anyone. Teach teenagers how to make bombs of readily available, household products and they will inevitably blow themselves up. God Bless!

  • Ari

    Jenny – would you care to speak about the procedure known as endometrial ablation? I’m not trying to create a rabbit trail. I just recently heard of this and wondered how it fits into the culture of life. I’m 100% with you that the Church is pro-woman, and the teachings on love, life, and families are beautiful, not oppressive.

    • Jenny Uebbing

      Yep, great example Ari! I know that NaPro docs will treat using endometrial ablation, though they typically proceed cautiously and try to “vaporize” the endo first, if the presenting condition is small/contained enough. If it’s a more major overgrowth of endo then the surgeon will typically present the options to the patient and explain the outcome (scarring is likely and can definitely impact fertility) and then the patient makes the decision based on the severity of the disease, the expected outcome, etc. I’ve had friends with terrible endo who had the procedure done under a NaPro doc and, because extreme care was taken to stitch back up the site of excision/ablation, ended up with minimal scarring and did eventually go on to conceive.

      Even if the scarring is such that future fertility is off the table, there’s not a moral problem to proceed with treatment because the intent is not to render the woman sterile for contraceptive purposes, (nobody would pick this as a method of birth control, no matter how desperate. It’s so painful!) but to eradicate/ameleorate the disease. So if infertility is a side effect of treatment, that’s certainly unfortunate, but nothing immoral going on!

  • James Renna

    Hi, Jenny. Forgive me as I nerd out, but I think the content below is a helpful complement to your article. -James

    Adapted from Part III of
    Renna, James. Abortion, Personhood, and Marriage: a Pro-life Document in Three Parts. Amazon CreateSpace, 2015.

    On the contrary: Only an act of sexual love that is consensual, total, exclusive, and open to procreation is wholly selfless and respectful both to one’s partner and to the children conceived.5

    I answer that: Without consent, a sexual act is coerced; without totality, it is half-hearted or worse; without exclusivity, it is emotionally or physically unfaithful; without openness to procreation, it is dishonest (see Q. 2, Reply 1). In each of the many harmful variations that lack one or more of the four characteristics listed above, some form of objectification, selfishness, and/or disrespect is involved. Because these three are enemies of true love, sexual love should be consensual, total, exclusive, and open to procreation. As a result, sexual love itself contains a call to marriage, which is the only context where these four characteristics can co-exist. Selfless and respectful sexual love between married persons is the only appropriate fountainhead of a selfless and respectful human society.6

    Reply to Objection 1: The term “traditional marriage” is inaccurate both because there is only one type of relationship that can be called marriage,7 and because tradition is not the reason that such a relationship is a marriage. For a heterosexual couple, consummation literally forms a marriage of persons: it enables the two to function as one for the first time by engaging in the reproductive act (cf. Q. 1, answer).8 Therefore, the definition of marriage is determined by the nature of heterosexual acts, not by secondary issues such as cultural gender roles,9 financial considerations, etc. Moreover, for Catholic Christians and others, consummation fulfills in action the vows of consensual, total, and exclusive self-gift, and it makes good on the vow to be open to children.

    There are responsible and respectful reasons for a married couple to plan not to conceive a child at a certain time. However, a couple should choose a method of family planning that remains open to procreation (such as one of the highly effective methods of Natural Family Planning). This is because a child conceived in an act that is not open to procreation is not merely “unexpected” or “unplanned” but may also be considered “unwanted” or “a mistake.” A child is best served in an environment in which, from the beginning, his or her parents are willing to accept the child with open hearts.

    In addition, sexual love is the only means by which a human being can give himself or herself entirely to another in true love and receive the other entirely in return. The language of the act is that of total mutual self-gift. Therefore, to intend something different than what one says with his or her body is, in a sense, to speak an untruth, and this sexual dishonesty is in opposition to true love: “I give you everything I am except what can bring forth new life with you;” or “I love everything about you except your fertility.”10 This lack of honesty about sexual love leads to objectification in which partners use one another for pleasure. Outwardly, such an act may seem like an expression of love and an aid to growing in unity, but inwardly there is a contradiction: a lack of openness to children who are the living expression of their parents’ love and the reason for being united exclusively (cf. Q. 1, Reply 3). Contraceptive acts within marriage fall short of the consensual, total, exclusive, fruitful sexual bond that defines marriage and that, for Catholic Christians and others, fulfills and renews its vows.11

    5 – These four qualities are adapted from West’s phrasing: “free, total, faithful, and fruitful”
    6 – The insight that sexual love is the fountainhead of society is taken from West
    7 – a. These insights are taken from Cardinal Burke and were pointed out by LM
    b. Marriage is also fittingly called “matrimony” because it is through the same act that consummates marriage that a woman becomes a mother (Latin, mater)
    8 – PC recommended that this observation be relocated
    9 – cf. Justice Ginsburg: “[Same-sex couples] wouldn’t be asking for this relief if the law of marriage was what it was a millennium ago… Same-sex unions would not have opted into the pattern of marriage, which was a relationship, a dominant and a subordinate relationship. Yes, it was marriage between a man and a woman, but the man decided where the couple would be domiciled; it was her obligation to follow him. There was a change in the institution of marriage to make it egalitarian when it wasn’t egalitarian.”
    10 – These two quotations paraphrase West
    11 – a. In the same way marital sexual love literally fulfills the marriage vows through consummation (cf. Q. 2, Reply 1), it also literally renews those vows in subsequent acts. This insight is adapted from West
    b. The marriage vows are not arbitrary; they conform to the truths of sexual love. As a result, the vows are not restrictive but rather a source of freedom in proportion to one’s self-mastery

    Aquinas, St. Thomas. Summa Theologica. Second and Revised Edition. Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Online edition Copyright 2008 by Kevin Knight. http://www.NewAdvent.org/summa

    Burke, Raymond Cardinal. Speech to the “Society for the Protection of Unborn Children” and “Voice of the Family.” Abbey Suite, Doubletree by Hilton Hotel. Chester, England. 6 March 2015.

    Faust, Katy. Dear Justice Kennedy: An Open Letter from the Child of a Loving Gay Parent. http://www.ThePublicDiscourse.com/2015/02/14370/

    Finnis, John. “Law, Morality, and ‘Sexual Orientation’” in Same Sex: Debating the Ethics, Science, and Culture of Homosexuality. ed. John Corvino. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 1997. p. 31-43. Citations from PDF on http://www.Princeton.edu

    Naab, Kathleen. Those Raised by Same-Sex Couples Try to Show Another Side to Marriage Debate. http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/those-raised-by-same-sex-couples-try-to-show-another-side-to-marriage-debat/

    U.S. Supreme Court. Obergefell vs. Hodges. Oral arguments on 28 April 2015. http://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/14-556q1_11o2.pdf

    West, Christopher. Sexual Honesty: a Proposal to Engaged Couples About the Truth and Meaning of Sexual Love. CD by Ascension Press, 2006. West’s talk is based upon Pope St. John Paul II’s teaching, which can be read in Man and Woman He Created Them: a Theology of the Body. Trans: Michael Waldstein. Pauline Books & Media, 2006.

  • Barbara

    I might also mention: every day that you take a pill to avoid pregnancy, you are saying to God “I don’t trust You to handle my life, my future, my fertility.” It’s a sort of subconscious denial of faith. I took BC for one month, and that was what it said for me. Never took them again.
    Then again, there is the pollution of water with leftover hormones via urination…they do not have the ability to remove them from the outflow. What damage is being done from that? Noone discusses that.

    • Donjohn

      I think we fail as a society to teach our males that they are equally responsible for their actions on this matter. We seem to place all the responsibility of birth control on the women. That is so wrong.

  • Matthew

    Awesome post! Thanks for these great articles, Jenny.

    This one reminded me of the quote from Frank Sheed:
    “The typical modern man practically never thinks about sex. He dreams of it, of course, by day and by night; he craves for it; he pictures it, is stimulated or depressed by it, slavers over it.
    But this frothing, steaming activity is not thinking. Slavering is not thinking, picturing is not thinking, craving is not thinking, dreaming is not thinking.
    Thinking means bringing the power of the mind to bear: thinking about sex means striving to see sex in its innermost reality and in the function it is meant to serve.”

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