Today, I welcome Bette Russo, a good friend who just celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary last year, to talk about why she stands with the 15% of Catholics who believe contraception is immoral. After receiving her Master's of Science in Education from Hunter College, Bette taught in NYC elementary schools before having her first child. Her daughters Kristin and Liz have both contributed to the blog before!
Artificial birth control (i.e., contraceptives) is a major moral issue even though only a small number of Catholics (15%) and only 6% of non-Catholics agree with the Church's view of contraception as morally wrong. My husband and I are two of those 15% of Catholics who fully agree with our Church’s teaching and have never used contraceptives. We’re married 51 years with 7 children and 33 grandchildren.
I believe that natural law (& God’s law) views the primary purpose of sex to be procreation. The pleasure a couple experiences with sexual intercourse is an additional blessing from God which also strengthens the love between a husband and wife, as well as mutual respect and a bond of intimacy, all of which strengthen the family setting required to nurture and raise children.
The basic purpose of sex is clearly procreation. God’s gifts to the husband and wife of pleasure and intimacy in intercourse should not be violated or abused by preventing unnaturally the primary purpose of procreation. This has been the clear teaching of the Catholic Church for 2000 years and indeed has been the teaching of most Protestant churches until about 1930. The Church’s first Council of Nicea (325 AD) proclaimed this, as did Augustine in 419 AD. Christian leaders such as Martin Luther, John Wesley and John Calvin all stated the same view as the Catholic Church describing the evil nature of contraception.
After having 6 children by age 33, we decided to use Natural Family Planning (NFP). The techniques of NFP are pretty clear and straightforward, but I must admit we occasionally chose to “take a chance” at a time fertility was possible. And so, yes, we had a 7th child, who now himself has 3 kids of his own. And, in all candor, we could not be happier having this wonderful son and his family, who would not exist if we had not “taken a chance.” But our experience with NFP was that it was very, very reliable. Of course, it meant abstaining from sexual activity for about a week every month. How terrible!
But NFP, in our view, is as reliable, and possibly more reliable, than the use of artificial contraceptives. It involves the use of several bodily signs given by nature to a woman to recognize the few days each month during which the chances for conception to occur are indeed quite high, with most other days having chances that are very, very low.
When we got married in 1964, divorce rates were half what they are today. Without question, divorce has serious adverse impacts on the children of such couples. Several studies show a significant correlation between high divorce rates and artificial contraceptive use, while NFP couples have far lower divorce rates.
Contraception has obviously promoted “free love” behavior and other sexual behavior that violates marital fidelity. Women who use NFP, studies have shown, more often have happier marriages, have higher rates of marital relations, have a deeper intimacy with their husbands, are personally happier, are more religious and attend church more often, are less likely to have an abortion, less likely to have cohabited and less likely to have sex outside of marriage. This greatly benefits not only the couple, but their children and society as well.
Since the continuation of the human race depends on procreation, God clearly intended sexual activity to be viewed as something special, combining love, pleasure and procreation in a special set of actions by married couples intended to also positively affect the raising of children by a loving and caring mother and father.