The strict attitude of the Catholic Church in condemning the practice of birth control acts as setback to many, and especially to intelligent non-Catholics. The official declaration- of Protestant sects have been so bewildering and contradictory in this matter that Protestants in general get no sense of direction whatever from these sources. Propaganda for birth control has been clever, subtle, and insidiously effective in creating an attitude of ”scientific superiority” among those who oppose the view of the Catholic Church. Now non-Catholics readily I assume that there is nothing to be gained in the search for truth from such a “backward” and “medieval” institution. All claims of the Catholic Church are dismissed out of hand because of the fostered attitude that the Church is “out of touch with reality.”
Propaganda for birth control has studiously avoided the basic moral principles involved, while concentrating almost exclusively on the social, economic and health aspects of the problem of child bearing. Hence the shrewdly contrived programme of “planned parenthood.”
The result is that discussions about birth control among non Catholics seldom if ever get down to Basic principles. Instead the talk will be centred about the cost of Hospitalisation and medical care, the impossibilities of the housing situation- the wretched condition of the poor- a host of other social and economic ills -all traceable to “unscientific child bearing.” Seldom will there be any mention of successful and happy large families. These are written off as a phenomenon of the less enlightened past.
It seems to me that to make any impression at all on those for whom the Catholic attitude on birth control acts as a stumbling block, it is wise to get beneath the surface of this problem and not to waste futile efforts discussing the pros and cons of contraception at all.
To understand the Catholic view of birth control and the problems of child-bearing, it is necessary, first, to have a clear understanding of the nature of God and of the relation of man the creature with God the Creator. Secondly, it is essential that there should be an understanding of the implications of the Divine Plan for the human race in its special relationship toward the institution of marriage. Thirdly, it is necessary to develop the consciousness of God’s presence and of His Divine Providence in the affairs of ordinary mortals.
Unless one accepts Almighty God as the final arbiter of human destiny and His Will as the law of human life, there is little point in arguing the right or wrong of birth control. To one who accepts the Will of God, it is necessary only to know that contraception is directly forbidden by the Divine Positive Law and contrary to the very nature, purpose and end of the institution of matrimony. There argument ceases. But, if one does not understand or accept the Will of God in this matter, the discussion can be concerned only with expediency.
Likewise it is useless to attempt to convince one of the evil of birth control who cannot or will not see the Divine design in the nature of man, creating each function for its special end in relation to the Divine purpose, determining the limits of its use and regulating its abuse. If man himself is to be the sole determining factor in the use and abuse of his natural functions; if he alone has control and authority to decide and to plan parenthood or to reject it arbitrarily while satisfying his passions, then all argument is beside the point.
To penetrate that wall which birth control propaganda has built around current thinking and feeling, it is much more effective to begin by reducing the outer barrier of ignorance of the nature of God, the nature of man, and the essential relationship between Creator and creature. Most of the discussions on the matter of birth control which lead nowhere could be terminated with a simple remark: “The trouble with this discussion is that it ought to begin with the question: Do we believe in God?”
Where actually, there is a definite belief in God and an understanding of His Will, the problem becomes very much more simplified. No doubt there are many sincere non- Catholics who recognise the immorality of birth control. But, like some Catholics of the same mind, lack courage and the faith to do what is right. With these the problem is simply one of building up their confidence in the Providence of God and in His all-wise and all-loving care of His creatures. The only question that need be answered for them is : “How far can a human being in the face of pressing social and economic problems dare to trust God?” The weak and those of little faith, who practise birth control, answer: “Thus far and no further!” Those who live the belief that “to those who love God all things work together unto good” answer, in the spirit of trustful confidence in God’s goodness: “All the way!” There is no doubt at all that birth control is a major setback to belief for many non-Catholics who would, otherwise, find their way into the Catholic Church. Some know the truth, recognise the evil, and refuse to do the Will of God which they understand. They stay outside the Church for the very same reason that Catholics who practise birth control stay away from the Sacraments. They sin against the light. In the effects of prayer and the Grace of God lies their salvation.
But there are others, who are deceived by a combination of ignorance of the very nature’ of God and Man and a false sense of “scientific superiority” over ‘reactionary” Catholicism. The combination of ignorance and false security in their position builds a mental, emotional and sentimental barrier against the truth that is difficult to break. It will withstand direct and immediate assault if attacked on social, economic or medical grounds. But it can be reduced, with skill and patience, by penetrating to the foundation of the barrier. Clear away the sands of ignorance of the nature of God and of man. Once a person knows God and understands the elements of His design in human nature as part of His universe, birth control is no longer an intellectual problem. It is just a matter of courage to face the truth and live by it. God will help, too He wants to.
BY JEROME P. HOLLAND.
The Malayan Catholic Newsletter, july 16, 1950, pg 3