I first saw the subject on this article in a book written by secular humanist Walter Lippmann and published in 1929. The 1920’s era was not only a time of bootleg liquor in the States; it was also a time in which effective contraception was becoming widely known. It was practiced in secular circles, debated in religious circles, and philosophized about by the followers of Margaret Sanger who had made it a front page item. Starting her war on chastity in 1914, just a few months before the start of World War I, she promoted contraception as a way to be happy by having unlimited sex and very small families. She managed to get arrested repeatedly, and her court cases drew more attention and sympathy to her cause. Her promise of happy marriages through contraception was, however, a misconception; the divorce rate in 1910, the year of the last census before she started her work, was 1 in 11 marriages. By 1970, with nearly universal contraception, it had grown by 500% to 1 in 2 marriages.
Fear of pregnancy had been a controlling factor in the lives of many would-be fornicators and adulterers. What could life be like without any fear of pregnancy? It didn’t take the reformers long to develop the logical consequences. If there was no built-in law of human nature, and if fear of pregnancy was the only limitation on sex with an agreeable partner, what was there to stop anyone from doing anything of mutual agreement? To be sure, there were laws based on the religious condemnation of adultery, fornication, incest, etc., but only rape could not be a matter of mutual agreement. The reformers would have to get the laws changed to accommodate this new image of human relationships.
Walter Lippmann observed this but didn’t buy into it even though he was not a religious person, at least publicly. So he wrote in his A Preface to Morals that the self-styled reformers were following the logic of birth control but not that of human nature.
I suspect that most Catholics who bought into the anti-Humanae Vitae revolution didn’t give their acceptance of contraception much more thought. They were content with their new freedom to have Margaret Sanger’s dream of unlimited sex and smaller families, and some perhaps prided themselves on their courage to go against the actual teaching of the Church and still call themselves Catholic. As many found out, the dream was a nightmare; more on that next week.
The point I want to make is that the dissenters’ acceptance of unnatural forms of birth control did not do away with its logical consequences. Soon after Humanae Vitae was issued on July 25, 1968, a vocal dissenter wrote a book that was published in 1970. He clearly pointed out that “we revisionists” have not only rejected the teaching on birth control but also the whole idea of natural law. To drive home his point, he wrote that as a revisionist, he could not logically say “no” to bestiality. After all, he argued, who are we to say that it might not help some young man get over some sort of hang-up?
I am not making this up. More next week on the logical consequences of contraception.
John F. Kippley, April 4, 2015