Advent Reflection (Archbishop Chaput: Surviving as a Catholic Family) Part 3

"As the Council Fathers clear stated, the Church's concern in her teaching on the regulation of births is to "preserve this full sense of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love" (GS 51). The Church would betray herself if she did not , at every turn, uphold the dignity of the human person by safeguarding the truth that "man can only find himself through a sincere gift of self"--in other words, by loving as Christ loves.

"If we are to fully grasp the significance of the Church's teaching and communicate it to others, we must understand precisely what it is that the Church opposes--and, in turn, how this threatens the deepest truth of the human person.

"The language we use is very important in this regard. For example, it is often said that the Church opposes artificial birth control. While true, this often misleads people to believe that the Church opposes such methods specifically because they are artificial, which is not the case. What the Church specifically opposes is contraceptive methods of birth control.

"Contraception can be defined as the choice, by any means, to impede the procreative potential of a given act of intercourse. In other words, the contraceptive couple chooses to engage in intercourse and, foreseeing that their act may result in a new life, they intentionally and willfully suppress their fertility. This can be done with artificial devices, hormones, by sterilizing surgical procedures, or various other means.

"Fertility, however, is not a merely biological phenomenon which can be suppressed at will without consequence to the couple's relationship. Fertility is given by God as a gift. It's an integral part of who we are. In the acts proper to marriage, husband and wife are called to give themselves to each other in the full truth of their personhood, in the full truth of their masculinity and femininity. This is the very "language," so to speak of the marital embrace: "I give myself to you completely, and receive all that you are."

"Contraception precludes this sincere self-giving by saying, "I give you all of myself except...except my fertility. I receive all that you are except...except your fertility." thus, the choice to intentionally withhold one's fertility during intercourse, or to refuse to accept it as a gift in one's spouse, contradicts the essence of conjugal love precisely at the moment when it should find its most intimate and sincere expression."

Next: The Essential Difference between contraception and Natural Family Planning.