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Father, We’re Ready for that Homily on Contraception Now

February 27th, 2012

by Jennifer Fulwiler

A couple of weeks ago, our priest gave a homily about contraception. While speaking about the Health and Human Services mandate, our associate pastor, Fr. Jonathan Raia, made a few allusions to the fact that the Church believes that contraception is bad. There were over a thousand people packed into the building, and a slight but noticeable tension developed as he inched closer and closer to the subject. This most controversial of Catholic teachings had been splashed all over the news in recent days, ridiculed and denounced throughout popular culture, and the question hung in the air: “Is he going to go there?”

He did.

You can hear the whole homily on our parish website here. In the second half of his talk, he gently but unflinchingly explained that the Catholic Church teaches that contraception is wrong. He gave a bit of background about the reasoning behind this stance, cleared up some common misconceptions, and pointed people to resources where they could find out more about methods of Natural Family Planning. As he spoke, the thought came to mind:

I think we’re finally ready for this.

In the seven years that I’ve been going to Catholic churches, I’d never heard a priest speak so directly about the Church’s teaching in this area—and I can understand why. For decades our culture has perceived contraception as being akin to air or water: a universally good resource with no downside. Only an institution with the most nefarious motives would oppose everyone incorporating this invaluable blessing into their lives, the thinking went. And so I’m guessing that many of our priests felt like the misunderstanding on this topic was so deep and so widespread that they’d need hours of speaking time to even begin to address it properly, and thus avoided it in homilies. (I’ve seen quite a few parishes, for example, where it may not be preached from the pulpit, but parishioners are encouraged to get involved in marriage and family ministries, where the issue is discussed in a more interactive, personal setting.)

But things are changing now. Just as the tide has turned on the issue of abortion, I see it turning with contraception too. Even non-Catholic publications are conceding that that the Church may not be totally crazy when it says that artificial birth control is neither good for the individual nor for society. More and more couples are realizing that contraception does not make marriage easier; they’re coming to see that, while Natural Family Planning has its challenges, the grass is just as complicated on the other side. After forty years of collective experience, it is dawning on people that contraception does not give women freedom over their bodies. Rather, it takes it away, as we see when we consider the data that over half of women who seek abortions were using contraception at the time they conceived. And while it may or may not be true that 98 percent of people sitting in the pews at Mass use contraception, I’m willing to bet that 98 percent of them also know someone who has ended up in an abortion clinic because of failed contraception.

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