Sex, Congress and the Catholic Church

April 14, 2012

Food for Thought

WARNING – This may be a PG 13 Blog post.

It seems everybody is talking about contraception these days.   It used to be impolite to speak about sex in public and if you spoke to anyone about contraception, it would be only your most intimate friends. Now it has become the subject of coffee clutches, water coolers, the United States Congress and homilies!

If you haven’t heard about the HHS Mandate click HERE for a primer.

Hurray – it is about time we get this hush-hush topic out in the open and because I love to talk about my faith, I welcome the opportunity to talk about the church’s teachings on just about anything.

The question I get most often from friends, family and strangers is: ” The Bishops are just plain ignorant when it comes to contraception.  Don’t they know that 98% of women in their churches are using contraception? The church should change their thinking on this!”

I first ask them to look into that statistic a little further – how was the information taken?  Does it mean that one time a Catholic woman used contraception once? It certainly doesn’t mean that 98% of the women in the pews are currently contracepting.  – I would maybe need to confirm that with the 80 year old blue haired lady sitting in the front pew – but I am pretty sure she is not.

My reply to the the question is: “Of course the bishops know that a percentage of Catholics are contracepting.  Maybe even 98%.  But 100% of us have gossiped, Probably 99% of us have lied.  How many of us have stolen? Maybe we should change those sins too.  If we are going to change what is considered a sin based on how popular it is – I vote for changing gossip too.  I really like to gossip. It is my favorite sin – lets change it so I can always do it and not have to feel guilty or attempt to change my behavior.”

The thing is – the church knows that we are prone to sin and that is why we have the church’s teachings to rely on to help us hold to doing what is good for us instead of doing what ever feels good at the moment. Yup – The bishops know human nature or rightly Jesus knows it.

But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well. (John 2:24-25)

Even though it feels good – gossiping is not good for me or good for my community. (neither is gluttony but since I write about food sometimes we won’t go into that one just yet)  Likewise, sex without responsibility is not good for us, our community or society as a whole.  The years since the sexual revolution has seen the downfall of marriage, the family and parenting. Sex before marriage has not been a great thing for our society.  Contraception makes it easier to just do what we want without consequences. The church, like a good parent, only wants what is good for us.

What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish?

Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? (Luke 11:11-12)

Regardless what congress has to say on this subject – the Catholic church will not be handing us (or more likely paying for) a scorpion.

I have spoken to women who have used contraception before marriage or  are possibly in a difficult marriage situation who say to me that they just can’t use Natural Family Planning.  It takes two to tango you know. NFP requires self control – for both parties.  I ask them to read Blessed John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and then ask them to tell me that it is not a beautiful teaching. It is important to know the value of what you are throwing away.  You can’t say it is not beautiful, because it IS a beautiful teaching and in a perfect world we all would be living it ALL of the time.  Instead, people want the church to change it’s thinking from this beautiful teaching and recognize human nature and let us do what we want instead of holding us to a higher standard.

And – maybe like myself and my favorite sins – some people can’t follow this teaching successfully.  Or maybe they can’t YET.

That brings us to the real beauty of our church.  Because Jesus knows human nature – he gave us this beautiful gift.  The sacrament of confession.  As Mother Theresa said “We are not called to be successful, we are called to be faithful.”

So once a month or so – I head into confession and confess many of the same sins over and over again. It occasionally seems futile, but the grace of that sacrament produces a miracle. Little by little – my behavior changes (I hope) to comply more and more to God’s will for me.  And maybe someday – in a perfect world – I will be living it all of the time.

I think they call that place Heaven…

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About Sharon O'Connell-Wilson

I am a wife to my husband Dave and mother to my children Courtney and Gabe. I have a degree in education and have worked as a teacher, in advertising, radio, retail buyer and in youth advocacy – I even rode an elephant in the circus once! Currently I work as the Respect Life Coordinator for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. I am a “cradle” Catholic who didn’t really know my faith until my adulthood. On fire with my faith and love for God I dove into parish life at Divine Mercy Catholic Church in Faribault, Minnesota. Once I dove in, I began to realized I needed to learn how to swim! Patient priests and friends as well as the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute helped me to learn the strokes. I love talking about my faith and learning more about the great gift of being Catholic.

View all posts by Sharon O'Connell-Wilson
  • J.J. Kirby

    Very well said! Popularity never makes something right.

  • Maureen

    Very well said! You gave the Church’s side honestly and made us all remember we are looking for salvation.

  • Chris Mcals

    The only reason that comes to my mind as to why “contracepting” may be sinful is that men and women are BOTH called to be co-creators with God by virtue of the fact that we are created in His Image and likeness.

    By preventing the act of co-creation through the use of any form of contraception, we are marring our inherited likeness to God and, by so doing, we are separating ourselves from our Creator, who is the Author of Life.

    However, let me also say that many women (perhaps the vast majority of us) would have no trouble at all doing away with contraception if men knew the meaning of the word “Abstinence” and use it, without losing their marbles.

    Women all too often find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place, and I personally believe that God regards us women with great compassion and a deep understanding of what we go through.