Contraception and Signs of Contradiction: Part II

Human Reason’s Confrontation of Natural Evil.  And yet, I have stated that Catholic teaching insists not only upon the intelligibility and orderliness of nature but the authentic and good role of human reason within that nature.  If we are not to conceive of nature as an unruly flurry of growth unless it be tamed and mastered by our reason, we nonetheless are the true possessors of our reason and have a responsibility to use it in accordance with Truth.  It might be better to say, rather, that we are the drivers of our reason who have a binding responsibility to see that it goes nowhere except according to the Truth that is its only real master.  If it were otherwise, we would not have reason but only will, and we would have no way to account for the everyday fact that we can only believe as true what we really believe is true.  Truth binds us at every turning of the stair.

And so, when a reasonable person sees young men and women marry and divorce; when he sees feels in his gut the great harm of illegitimacy to the single child and to society; when, further, he sees the spectacles of mass human poverty, of a world that seems to groan under the burden of feeding and clothing so many persons, even he who most instinctively adore the gift of children and would most readily submit his life to the vocation of parenting may be brought up short.

We all wish to be reasonable, and if reason tells the Catholic Church one thing and everyone else another, then what would seem to be in question is not so much the reliability of reason but the facts we think we know.  No one knows the poverty of the Indian slum or the wasting epidemics of disease in Africa better than the missions of the Catholic Church.  Does it not see the great suffering brought about by a surfeit of humanity?  Bodies crawling upon bodies?!  Food divided and divided by meager fingers, more bone than flesh?

It does.  And it stands as a sign of contradiction in saying that these lives are good, are good in themselves, and that the suffering and hunger and disease besetting them are evil, natural evils, to be combatted by any means that does not itself produce other and greater evils.

It told us that the desire to control fertility by technological means would not curb illegitimacy, reduce abortion, or strengthen the integrity of marriages.  To the contrary, it foresaw the age of contraception as a regime of broken and lonely souls ever more inclined to covet sexual contact and yet to abhor its natural ends; an age of increased illegitimacy, disease, abortion, and divorce.  And we have found to our cost that it spoke the truth.

The Church tells us that a people who, on the level of the individual family, misconceives its capacity to raise more than one or two children without robbing them of all the usual “advantages” is one that has probably mis-measured and misallocated the resources of the earth.  It has misjudged the very nature of the world’s growing population as a sign of over-population.  Such a people has, in fact, ignored every reasonable measurement that indicates that population has swelled, not because of too much fertility, but only in consequence of better rational means of combatting the evils of disease and hunger.

But, one asks, if we have found a way to fight, in some cases even to end, the hindrances of disease, do we not see that the incessant movement of Hobbes’s nature will take over once more?  We have, as a matter of fact, to deny that any such movement has taken over.  Demographic measurements indicate that we are more likely to face a graying of the world’s peoples than an unbearable fruitfulness of children.  Moreover, demographers calculate that the world’s population will be significantly smaller by the end of this century than it was at the beginning of it.  In a global sense, we cannot only afford but need more children.

Page 2 of 3 | Previous page | Next page