Thursday, November 14, 2002

I teach the Church's position on contraception in my ethics class, and

nobody complains. Yes, believe it or not, when we discuss natural law ethics, I use the Church's prohibition of contraception as my example. I show how Aquinas proceeds: there is the first object of practical reason, which is the good, and then the first indemonstrable precept, that good is to be done and evil to be avoided. Then arises the question "What is good?" At this point one needs to examine human beings to decide what human goods are. It is not a simple matter of taking a poll on what humans like, but rather a matter of finding out what the real goods are that contribute to human flourishing. Just as if in a plague 51% of the people with the illness wouldn't make the illness health, so also if 51% of humans think that fornication were right, it would still be wrong, because fornication doesn't help humans to flourish.

So far, so good. We have a sketch of how natural law theory works. But how do we figure out particular precepts of the natural law? I use contraception as an example. We take a good hard look at the nature of the human person and of the sexual act. Sex is an act that by its very nature includes the gift of self to another, a total gift of the whole person to the other person. If its procreative dimension is taken away, the act becomes false, a restricted and shallow use of another for pleasure rather than a self-gift of love.

We then look at it more concretely. I draw a circle on the board to represent a woman. In the circle I place the various elements that contribute to the whole that is woman. So, it looks like this: (intelligence, judgment, wisdom, humor, love, sexual organs and attributes.) This represents the whole woman. I then draw another circle representing a man: (sexual organs.} I point out that if sex is open to the gift of life, the man needs to consider the entire woman, for she could be the mother of his child. If the sexual act is sterilized, the man no longer needs to consider the whole woman, but can just consider (sexual organs.) The woman becomes nothing other than a tool to be used for pleasure. Evidence that this is the case can be seen in the desperate things that women do to fight to stay sexually attractive, from botox to fad diets, from breast implants to mutilating their faces in plastic surgery. Look at what Joan Rivers has done to herself in a futile attempt to remain "sexy." Further, look at what happens to the man: because of contraception, the man is able to live his life like a fifteen year-old boy would like to live, full of sex without consequences. Once a student asked me when men grow up, and I said "Only when they have to." If men can have sex without consequences, they will never grow up. Thus men become incapable of being good husbands and fathers, since they never had to, because of

I ask the students to answer if they think, honestly, that contraception leads to human flourishing: "Umm, no." I then say "If that is the case, then is the Church correct that it is a bad thing?" "Yes." Perhaps it is a result merely of my wonderful teaching abilities or commanding personality, but as of yet no-one has disputed me on the conclusion.

The moral of the story? The teaching on contraception hasn't been rejected as much as it has never been taught. It can be taught in a way that allows the students to come to the correct conclusion on their own. I appeal to all of you to teach the Church's teaching on the Gospel of Life--it can be effectively taught for the simple reason that it is true. Teach it!

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