NOTE: This article features some sensitive topics that may not be suitable for younger readers. Please use discretion.
Josh Raymond began a recent segment of The Inner Life by asking his listeners what they would do if somebody asked them to hold a fragment of plutonium, uranium, or radium, elements known to cause cancer due to their highly radioactive states. Understandably, everybody would probably say no and look at the person asking them like they were crazy. Nobody in their right mind wants cancer or wants to die.
Then why do so many women take the birth control pill, contraception? If you look up “the pill” on Google, four of the top five results are ads for companies selling the birth control pill and the fifth result is Planned Parenthood’s website touting the safety and affordability of these contraceptives. There is not a single result that talks explicitly about the fact that estrogen-progestogen oral contraceptives are ranked as a group 1 carcinogen right alongside radium, sun radiation, and tobacco smoking. That’s right. According to the IARC, the pill causes cancer.
“The National Cancer Institute has data that states that in over fifty – five, zero – fifty studies, the research showed that women who actively used oral contraceptives had a 24% increase in risk of developing breast cancer.” Furthermore, another study showed that if a woman took the birth control pill for five or more years, her risk for cervical cancer increased by 60%.
While that is certainly a monumental reason to stop using contraception, it isn’t the only one. Its carcinogenic properties elicit a practical aversion, but what about a moral one? As Josh pointed out, contraceptives are trying to fix something that isn’t broken: human fertility. In fact, they’re making human fertility function far worse, if not destroying it. Father Joseph Johnson joined Josh on the show to discuss how we can view procreation through spiritual eyes and find moral alternatives to contraception like natural family planning or temporary abstinence.
Father Joseph began by saying that the holy, ever-lasting union of marriage is often perceived as being an earthly contract that can be severed like any other one through a divorce. But Jesus elevated this bond to a sacrament, an unbreakable union. And marriage has two ends. The first is to maintain the unity and oneness entered into by husband and wife and help the two build a relationship with God. They have become one together so that they can help each other get to heaven. “And then the second is the procreative, that is, it’s a great dignity that God confers on a man and woman to allow them to be co-creators – we usually say procreation, but it’s also co-creators with God – in bringing forth new life.”
It’s a privilege to be in that state, pursuing both of these goals in union with God as well as your spouse. A marriage gets derailed when one or both spouses decide that they want one without the other. They want the children, but they do not want or respect their marriage. Or, they want to be married and in love with their spouse, but they do not want children. That’s a distorted vision. A couple does not have to intend to have children when engaging in the marital act, but a couple always has to be open to the possibility of children. People utilizing different forms of birth control, whether they cause cancer or not, are shutting that door.
So, what are the solutions to this problem of acquiescing to our pride and selfishness? What can we do to balance our practicality and our morality? Many negatively perceive the concepts of abstinence and natural family planning as the “Catholic” version of birth control. It accomplishes the same thing, so how is it any different? So many people choose to cohabitate before marriage and have premarital relations that these concepts seem foreign, odd, strange.
Natural family planning is different because it’s a disconnection from our personal desires and pride. Contraception is the pursuance of taking the pleasure of sexual relations while attempting to eliminate the outcome of pregnancy. But natural family planning is making the sacrifice of abstinence. It’s providing an opportunity for each spouse to open communication and grow in intimacy and romance in other ways besides indulgence in sexual relations. Obviously, sex is a good thing within marriage, but it shouldn’t be a couple’s only path for intimacy with one another.
Father Joseph said that the biggest complaint that he hears from married women these days is, “Where did the romance go?” The problem is, too many couples are solely relying on physical attraction, sexual gratification, and their base desires to fuel their lifelong romantic union. Marriage and love are intended to be founded and centered in Christ and his plan, which is why contraception is such a selfish practice. We are called to embrace God’s plan, whether that means welcoming more children, abstaining from our desires, or planning according to our personal situation.
Listen to the full segment below:
Tune in to The Inner Life weekdays at 11am CT