Today I read a rather alarming statistic. According to an article on Catholic.org, 90% of Catholics do not believe that the use of contraceptives, mainly the magical pill, is immoral. 72% have used contraceptives at some point in their lifetime. And they still consider themselves to be 'good Catholics'. Therefore, one does not need to follow the tenants on the of the Church to be a 'good Catholic'? What then, pray tell, constitutes a good Catholic?
I will admit, I am one of the 72%. I was on the pill for 10 years, I started using it for medical reasons when I was 16 because I had debilitating desmenaria, but I never went off of it and continued using it for contraceptive purposes. And I used to believe that I could still be a good Catholic and not have to believe everything the church taught. Since I fully came back to the faith, I now understand that that is not true. Catholicism is not a cafeteria religion, you can't pick and chose what you want to believe. When the pope speaks about morals and he is speaking ex cathedra he is being led by the Holy Spirit. I am sure he knows that speaking against birth control would not be a popular thing! I am sure he understood that there would be people who would refuse to accept the church's teachings because they did not want to change their life style, and they would leave. Yet, the church is the only major church who has stuck to her guns.
Sex is a gift from God. God intended this gift to be used in the context of marriage. Marriage, as we all know, is a sacrament, and the sexual act is is part of the marriage covenant. It is meant to be both love giving AND life giving. If you take purposefully take away one of those aspects, then it becomes something that is unholy. Contraception makes something that was meant to be pure and holy, something common.
Contraception also disrespects that natural law of how a woman's body works. God was very meticulous when he created us. He gave us a natural cycle. If He wanted us to get pregnant every time we had sex, we would be fertile all of the time. But God, in His omnipotence, gave us both fertile and infertile periods. We can follow this natural cycle to either avoid or achieve a pregnancy.
So, why is it that so many people disregard the teachings of the church? Speaking from my personal experience, I did not fully understand the authority of the church and I did not want anything getting in the way of the lifestyle I wanted to live. I wanted the church to conform to me, not vice versa.
Now, I practice NFP. As of this point in time my fiance and I are not sexually active and I am taking advantage of this opportunity to chart and understand my natural cycle.
Also, I am not really sure if this issue is being taught to the full extent that it should be. I remember being in Catholic school and taking sex ed. Yes, they did push abstinence, and they briefly discussed the different kinds of contraception, but did not go fully into the theological reasons why contraception is immoral. In high school a priest talked to us about marriage and how we should use NFP, but still again we did not discuss the theological issues. I think it may have been better to have invited women who practice and/or teach NFP to show us living examples. I may have considered it more fully if I had actually met a woman who practiced NFP and told us her reasons on why she and her husband practice it. Yes, priests are great men, and I highly respect the priest that taught that marriage class. But, to a 17 year old girl, having a priest talk to you about sex and marriage is not the most effective tactic. I think it would have been more affective hearing the actual experience of a woman who fully follows the church's teachings.