This is a follow up to Robert Levine’s excellent post below on American Puritanism.  A very good article in The Washington Post a couple of weeks ago has not received the attention it deserved, How the Catholic Church almost came to accept birth control.  The Catholic Churches’ objection to birth control is recent.

Contrary to widely held assumptions, the Catholic ban on birth control is relatively recent and has not been consistently supported by the clergy and the laity. Prior to the 1930s, the church had no official position on contraception. But on Dec. 31, 1930, Pope Pius XI issued a papal encyclical, Casti Connubii (Latin for “Of Chaste Wedlock”), which for the first time explicitly prohibited Catholics from using contraception.

It was a Catholic Doctor, John Rock, who developed the birth control pill thinking it would answer Church objections to birth control.  He was both right and wrong.

In 1964, Pope Paul appointed a commission on birth control to advise him. As the panel deliberated, anticipation ran high; many journalists, clergy and lay Catholics expected the church to lift the ban. Scottish songwriter Matt McGinn wrote a jaunty tune, recorded by Pete Seeger, about a woman with a house full of children waiting for the pope to “bless the pill.” She buys a package of birth control pills so she will be ready when the church acquiesces. In the final stanza, she hopes to hear the pope’s approval “before my man comes in.”

In 1967, the commission’s report was leaked to the press, revealing that a significant majority of its members favored lifting the ban, including 60 of 64 theologians and nine of the 15 cardinals. The minority who were opposed issued a separate report. After much consideration, the pope issued a formal encyclical, Humanae Vitae (“Of Human Life”) in 1968, siding with the minority and reaffirming the church’s prohibition of any form of artificial birth control.

The decision was not popular.

Catholic leaders quickly criticized the decision. Father Bernard Haring of Rome, widely regarded as the leading moral theologian at the time, called upon Catholic women and men to follow their consciences, rather than the pope’s decree. Countless parish priests agreed and gave sermons to that effect. The pope’s decision had little impact on Catholic women’s use of contraception. Two years after the decree, two-thirds of Catholic women were using contraception. Quickly, the gap between Catholic and non-Catholic women disappeared. According to data from the Department of Health and Human Services, Catholic women use birth control at the same rate as non-Catholic women. The Catholic Church has remained an outlier on the issue, unable to enforce its ban.

I guess we should not be surprised that a group of theoretically celibate men are out of touch with reality but out of touch they are as indicated by the fact that Catholic Church pews are filled with families consisting of one or two children.

RON BEASLEY, Assistant Editor
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zephyr
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zephyr
4 years 6 months ago

Apparently this group of “theoretically celibate men” not only believe women shouldn’t have control of their own bodies, but also believe it is better for populations to continue rising in places where the resources can’t sustain the numbers, even when that leads to starvation, disease, and wars. Is this what Jesus would have wanted, or is he trumped by the Vatican?

DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist
Editor
there are thugs in the church who threaten damnation to those who do not follow their remonstrances. there are such holy men and women in the church who do go far to bind up the wounds of those harmed by life … and by the church. For me, seeing the huge Catholic makeup of SCOTUS, and ‘conversions’ of Gingrich, randall Terry, and the late Bob Novak… and the visits to the Bush family seeking to convert them, I deeply sense there is nefarious movement by the vatican to influence USA politics. Fine enough, but we’d like it to be in… Read more »
DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist
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@ron “Dr E I somehow knew this would be your reaction.” Geez I am that predictable? Yikes, I have to start wearing my Zorro mask and saying strange things in Castilliano. I hope you are laughing with me. In reply to you with gravity, I think for me and for many, a turning point of huge departure was brought into focus by ‘mother’ theresa, seeing her holding little babies in such pain, and in the same week coming to a huge rally in the USA and preaching no contraception. I think from that juxtapositon, both televised, there was no way… Read more »
ShannonLeee
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ShannonLeee
4 years 6 months ago

My dislike of the Catholic Church is pretty obvious, but there are wonderful and caring members within the Church. It is the organization that I despise…and they pain it has created throughout the centuries.

As for birth control, it is quite simple. Catholics not having babies is bad for the future of the Catholic Church…and that is where they get their morality. It is not a question of morality or decree…

it is simply math, power, and survival.

CStanley
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CStanley
4 years 6 months ago
Wow, that OP is incredibly distorted. Both Casti Connubii and Humanae Vitae were written In reaction to the times, when both secular society and Protestant churches were promoting birth control and/or abortion, but that doesn’t mean that the Church was reversing its positions (it was seeing the need to reaffirm them with clarity.) if anything, Casti Connubii was liberalizing the teachings a bit by affirming that conjugal relations between spouses during natural times of infertility were licit. This was reaffirmed in Humanae Vitae and forms the basis for the modern practice of Natural Family Planning. I also find it strange… Read more »
JDave
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JDave
4 years 6 months ago

Thank you CStanley. That needed said.

“that doesn’t mean that the Church was reversing its positions (it was seeing the need to reaffirm them with clarity.)”

I’ll elaborate a bit. Before Casti Connubii the church had nothing as clear as an encyclical, but bishops and theologians overwhelmingly spoke out against contraception going to the early church fathers. There are not many such condemnations but they far outnumber support for contraception.

Some of the oppostition to the Catholic church is quite understandable, but too much of it is based on such horrible misinformation.

JDave
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JDave
4 years 6 months ago
Ron, I don’t understand the moral reasoning behind the bishops’ opposition to BC either. Clearly, almost nobody does. I admire those who can accept this difficult teaching of the church, but I cannot. I oppose the church forcing its teachings on our pluralistic nation, but I also oppose secular society forcing its morality on the bishops. Dr. E, Often, even horrible suffering is unavoidable. Science and Technology admirably seek to eliminate it, but I believe it can only be minimized. Even if it does succeed, that is no comfort to those who suffer today from incurable illness. Christianity is the… Read more »
ShannonLeee
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ShannonLeee
4 years 6 months ago

There is nothing noble in suffering. Jesus chose to suffer for our sins and that is noble… he was not born HIV positive with a crack addiction.

The Catholic celebration of suffering reminds me of an S&M relationship.

JDave
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JDave
4 years 6 months ago

My mother didn’t choose Alzheimer’s, yet traditional Christian thought sees her suffering as a sharing in the suffering of Jesus.

I’ll try to be clear: her suffering being noble in no way excuses me from my responsibility to ease her suffering. Similarly, the church should not use “Suffer the Children” as an excuse not to ease the suffering of HIV/crack babies.

adelinesdad
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adelinesdad
4 years 6 months ago
Is the implication here that the process by which the Catholic church decided to not accept contraception justifies the government’s interference? I heard a right-wing talking head recently say that the government is effectively telling the Catholic church how it should interpret its own doctrine. I thought that that was a stretch. But that’s essentially what is happening on this thread at least. The message is: We don’t like how the Catholic church came to this decision, so we can ignore it. Seems like a dangerous precedent. When will the validity of my church’s teachings be up for governmental scrutiny?
TheMagicalSkyFather
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TheMagicalSkyFather
4 years 6 months ago
AD-I am with you I do not think this argument or accusing the WH of trying to change an interpretation of church doctrine really have any validity in this debate. We all know how the church makes its decisions and we all know that most forms of contraception are rather new and therefore the above story is in no way surprising or upsetting…unless you truly expected something else. The catholic church has a very long history of only moving to the right side of history on an issue after the wrong side has become so utterly devoid of sustainability it… Read more »
JDave
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JDave
4 years 6 months ago

MSF – other than your liberal use of superlatives, I pretty much agree with you there.

TheMagicalSkyFather
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TheMagicalSkyFather
4 years 6 months ago

To be clear when I said “we all know how the church makes its decisions” I was not speaking of some evil plot but merely that the Pope makes the call. Meaning it is not a democracy but instead it is a decision coming from a single person.

CStanley
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CStanley
4 years 6 months ago

Clearly I’m at odds with those who are certain that the sexual revolution was on the right side of history, but I’m having trouble seeing that as the inevitable conclusion. Do those who believe that not at least see that there’s been a downside?

TheMagicalSkyFather
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TheMagicalSkyFather
4 years 6 months ago
CStanley-It depends on how you define the “sexual revolution” I define it as the time period in which women were no longer tied until death to spouses they often married only either to have sex, because it is just what you do or because of a pregnancy(the men were also free’d). I also define it as the time period in which we began to look at sex more realistically as opposed to urban legends and superstition that increased stds and unwanted pregnancies(though primarily in the lower classes that we largely ignored). I also define it as the time period when… Read more »
TheMagicalSkyFather
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TheMagicalSkyFather
4 years 6 months ago
Homosexuals which have always been a part of civilization no longer have to live in constant fear of incarceration or state sanctioned violence or blackmail because they cant come out. Initially this caused homosexuals to create a separate sub-culture but even that is going away as they become more accepted and are no longer being forced into unhappy marriages and lives. It also doubled our workforce and in doing so quickly brought an end to what was a normalization of work place sexual harrassment. It also moved us away from the excuse of “she was asking for it” in regards… Read more »
CStanley
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CStanley
4 years 6 months ago

Um, so if you reframe my question to only examine positive outcomes, you will come up with only positive outcomes. That’s kind of a given, MSF. 😉

TheMagicalSkyFather
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TheMagicalSkyFather
4 years 6 months ago

Sorry fighting the spam filter sec.

JDave
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JDave
4 years 6 months ago

CS, I’d like to see a serious discussion of your question too.

MSF, I think we’d all agree that there are many positive outcomes. The question was “aren’t there a few downsides too?”

TheMagicalSkyFather
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TheMagicalSkyFather
4 years 6 months ago
Bah and I keep losing. I think that forcing most lower income families to be dual income to make it by was a major negative but otherwise I see it as similar to the end of slavery or the civil rights movements. Negatives popped up but primarily the cause was long periods of denying liberty to all citizens and the push back and forth between those trying to re-define themselves in the evolving culture and those trying to take us back to a time they are more comfortable with(meaning the culture war itself was a negative). At heart I am… Read more »
CStanley
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CStanley
4 years 6 months ago
Well, in addition to the negatives you mention, I do see the coursening of culture toward complete acceptance of casual sex and objectification of persons as a negative, and direct correlates of those cultural changes with respect to disintegration of family and a lot of psychological distress among young people (particlularly adolescent girls, I think ,although I’m not so sure that boys are really unscathed.) We’ll probably never agree on those things, but really the reason I brought it up was in response to your comment where I think you were alluding to historical events like The Gallileo affair. My… Read more »
CStanley
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CStanley
4 years 6 months ago

Sorry, that should be “coarsening” of the culture.

JDave
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JDave
4 years 6 months ago

I think CS nails it with coarsening and objectifying. I see more and more acknowledgement of that from secularists which is mildly encouraging.

MSF, I can agree with most of what you said too. I consider myself a bad libertarian. “Bad” in the sense that some big govt programs are terrific for the common good, and without some restraint on capitalism we’d all owe our souls to the company store.

TheMagicalSkyFather
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TheMagicalSkyFather
4 years 6 months ago
CStanley-Well yes and no, from psychological studies we have learned many things but much like Galileo in his time they are ignored or unknown by much of society. Those studies have facts and those facts are provable but I doubt they will ever reach the level of acceptance that Galileo eventually did, as a good example much of our nation still struggles against Darwin. I do see physical objectification to be a major negative but I also think that will eventually reach a balancing point. To avoid acceptance and normalization of pre-marital sex is a problem since that moves us… Read more »
TheMagicalSkyFather
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TheMagicalSkyFather
4 years 6 months ago

JDave-We are basically cut from the same jib I think.

TheMagicalSkyFather
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TheMagicalSkyFather
4 years 6 months ago

Akk sorry CStanley just realized I was “painting a corner” there that I in no way intended to paint you into, it was just an error on my part. I have a tendency of going all “Braveheart Speech.”

JDave
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JDave
4 years 6 months ago

MSF, I’m getting the same impression.

Another point:

There’s something about that double standard that persists even among secularists advocating a modern approach to sexuality. Any call for sexual restraint is met with outraged accusations that we are calling women sluts. But the double standard is even in their objection. In any consensual act all parties are responsible. Just because our grandparents would have blamed the woman, doesn’t mean that those calling for restraint today aren’t being perfectly even-handed about it now. It’s difficult to have a reasoned discussion.

JDave
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JDave
4 years 6 months ago

Quick clarification: I think sexual restraint as the church teaches is a very good thing, but I don’t want the govt to have anything at all to do with that.

TheMagicalSkyFather
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TheMagicalSkyFather
4 years 6 months ago

JDave-True I would note though that the sexual double standard is still very commonly accepted in society so it is difficult to see it without that lens.

I fail to see how doubling the amount of people we shame for being “loose” while praising those that lie about it or keep their sex lives secret as a positive. An advantage of speaking openly about sexuality is that sexually incompatible couples are less likely to attempt marriage, since they know earlier of some structural problems.

TheMagicalSkyFather
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TheMagicalSkyFather
4 years 6 months ago

I dont think sexual restraint is bad it is sexual repression and an attempt to define what is and is not acceptable for all groups that is a problem.

adelinesdad
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adelinesdad
4 years 6 months ago
Interesting discussion on the sexual revolution. I don’t have much to add except to encourage you all to look up Peggy Orenstein who wrote the book “Cinderella Ate My Daughter”. She is a liberal (by my judgment) so I don’t agree with her on a lot of things but she is absolutely right about the destructive nature of our current culture of over-sexualization/objectification of women, particularly on young women. As a father of a daughter I am very concerned about this. In my view, we went from a time where women were practically owned by their husbands and therefore were… Read more »
TheMagicalSkyFather
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TheMagicalSkyFather
4 years 6 months ago

AD-Actually if you go with the core of conservative thought on most any other topic equality for women and for that matter equality for everyone and a lack of gov interference is right in front of your face. You really have to inject the social con movement to understand why the GOP is on the side of this fight that it is and if memory serves prior to around the late 1960’s they were on the other side as were the Dems.

CStanley
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CStanley
4 years 6 months ago
MSF, that’s true of any political issue and always has been, because the art of politics involves putting together various coalitions of people. If you look at the evolution you’re referring to, and looking at the whole body of Catholic morality, the Democrats generally adopted the social justice teachings and the GOP has taken on the sexual and family values. In both cases, the libertarian ideals have to be stretched to their limits to justify the governmental powers they advocate. There’s also been plenty of ‘convenient’ conversions on the Dem side, particularly among blacks who tended to be more aligned… Read more »
TheMagicalSkyFather
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TheMagicalSkyFather
4 years 6 months ago
And that is also ignoring pro-life Dems that tend to come from pro-life areas of the country. The pol that helped make this pivot for the GOP that grew the tent was Nixon that turned abortion into a wedge issue(not that it shouldnt have been just noting when it was created). I have been arguing that Obama is just doing the same thing shifting the debate from abortion and to contraception to grow the Dem tent and contract the GOPs. He is even doing it like Nixon did by agreeing with his opponents on so much that they have to… Read more »
JDave
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JDave
4 years 6 months ago

Adsdad, I have three daughters aged 22, 18, and 15 and have been very concerned about this almost since the first emerged with two arms and two legs. I talk to them. It helps.

MSF, Shame and praise – two words, each worthy of a long essay.

And yes, the great disconnect with Repubs is the govt activism they advocate on private matters and the laissez faire they advocate for business. It’s political of course, strange bedfellows and all.

Ron Paul is appealling because of his consistently applied principles, and unappealling because his principles are out there.

CStanley
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CStanley
4 years 6 months ago

Also MSF, I didn’t take that personally about religion in the public square, although I don’t completely agree with you either. I do agree that most support for religious values should come from families and the churches, and I don’t advocate a legislative assist- but I also think the reverse has to hold, that secularists can’t push religious values out of the culture via legislation.

JDave
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JDave
4 years 6 months ago

CS, good points, but the Repubs actually have a libertarian streak even if they’re pretending on some issues, while the Dems don’t even pretend to

CStanley
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CStanley
4 years 6 months ago
MSF, I agree about Obama working the wedge. I find it funny (but not, really) that some are falling for it hook line and sinker in feeling that there’s been a sudden suicidal urge for the GOP to widen the culture war gulf when it’s actually reacting to Obama’s fire across the bow. Also funny but not really is the way that certain people (not implicating you here MSF) used to talk very disparagingly about the idea of wedge issues, when what they really resented was that wedges had been driven into their own side’s coalitions (objecting really because they… Read more »
CStanley
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CStanley
4 years 6 months ago

jDave- I’d say there used to be a stronger libertarian streak in the Dem party but the party has definitely moved from classical liberalism to progressivism so has left some of them behind. I think most such people identify as independents and many still vote Democrat as the lesser of two evils because they’re more strongly repulsed by social conservatism than by big govt liberal economics.

JDave
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JDave
4 years 6 months ago
And there are a growing number of secularists who would gleefully use legislation to push religion out of the public square. It’s important to keep in mind that all of the founding principles of this country (e.g. inalienable rights) are moral propositions. Many people come to these convictions thru religion and many others thru secular humanism. In our pluralistic society all of these different people come together and make their case based on many differnt views of what is moral and what is not. The democratic process eventually stumbles to an imperfect conclusion. One of our contry’s principles is that… Read more »
JDave
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JDave
4 years 6 months ago

CS, you described how I’ve always voted.

adelinesdad
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adelinesdad
4 years 6 months ago

To clarify, when I used the term “conservative views on morality” I mean “conservative” in the cultural sense, not the political sense. I might have more accurately used the word “traditional.”

CS, your last point hits on something that has been bugging me for this whole debate. People act like this is something that the GOP brought up to take away health care from women. But, the GOP is just defending what had previously been the consensus on this issue.

rudi
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rudi
4 years 6 months ago

The wingnuts in SC swung the pendulum way to the Right, like 1400’s.
http://www.balloon-juice.com/2012/03/06/south-carolina-you-cant-be-a-republican-if-youve-had-premarital-sex/
Here’s a nugget of ridiculous for you.

The Laurens County Republican Party in South Carolina is chastening it up, requiring aspiring party members to pledge that they’ve never had premarital sex, and that they will never look at porn again.

No, seriously:

TheMagicalSkyFather
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TheMagicalSkyFather
4 years 6 months ago
CS-My issue was always purely with single issue voters and that is true for abortion or any other issue. Voting for a single issue when you vote counter to your beliefs on the rest is something that makes zero sense to me but it is commonly done on abortion and guns on both sides of the divide. Wedge issues and what they are is merely how politics work though sometimes they can be chosen unwisely. For instance Roves choice of using gay marriage as a wedge was a tad short sighted but it did win him that election. I think… Read more »
TheMagicalSkyFather
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TheMagicalSkyFather
4 years 6 months ago

AD-When HCR passed the GOP loudly telegraphed that this would be their next punch on the issue. The GOP chose this hill to stand on, they just misread the lay of the land I think.

CStanley
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CStanley
4 years 6 months ago

AD yeah, the same thing happened during the HCR debate regarding the Hyde amendment. Who knows, that might be where the WH political team got the idea that this could work in their favor.

CStanley
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CStanley
4 years 6 months ago

MSF, in what way has the GOP been crowing about contraception since HCR passed?

TheMagicalSkyFather
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TheMagicalSkyFather
4 years 6 months ago

CS-It goes all the way back to the Stupak amendment. At that time whether or not religious orgs would be left out of contraception coverage was discussed and the GOP blog world and Fox news talkers really seemed to think they had HCR over a barrel. If the hill chosen had been abortion itself instead of BC they may have been right but as it stands they lost it.

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