By Father Bill Kneemiller
Here’s a not-so-trivial question: What is the largest selling Catholic CD of all time? In my research, I found that it’s none other than Professor Janet E. Smith’s amazing talk, “Contraception, Cracking the Myths.” With 2 million tapes and CDs in distribution, it is now in its third edition. Smith holds the Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. She is the expert on this subject, and wow! This CD packs an amazing amount of information about the contraceptive pill, or “the pill” as it is commonly known. Her talk primarily speaks about the pill, and touches on effects of other hormonal contraceptive methods.
Smith’s talk focuses on key elements of the pill, its biological effects and its influence on courtship and marriage, and statistics about the rise in divorce rate that corresponds historically to its use. Her most intriguing data is the effect of the pill on courtship and male/female relations. The studies point to a two-fold effect of the component of the pill that causes a state of “pseudo-pregnancy” with side-effects of decreased libido, along with creating conditions for “contracepting” women being less attractive to men, as referenced in the book “The Decline of Males” by Lionel Tiger. Also Dawn Eden relates similar research in her book “The Thrill of the Chaste.”
With related data and studies on teens and their contraceptive use, the question is obvious — why would anyone recommend the pill to female teenagers? Smith quotes a study that shows a pregnancy rate of 42 percent for low-income teens who use the pill (www.advocatesforyouth.org “Reproductive Health Outcomes and Contraceptive Use Among Teens”). Even with more mature women who use the pill, the rate of pregnancy is 8.7 percent; the rate for other contraceptive methods is more dismal. This had led to an increase in abortions, and Smith explains the reality of the pill being an abortifacient. This would explain why Christian denominations taught against contraception until 1930.
In contrast, Smith makes the case for natural family planning (NFP), which lays the groundwork for her promoting “natural sex.” With the significant percentage of women taking some form of contractive, NFP has a lot to offer. Studies show that couples using NFP have a very minimal divorce rate, as opposed to the 40 percent-plus rate in the U.S. among couples who don’t practice NFP (Couple to Couple League 2005, “Marital Duration and Natural Family Planning”).
Recently in Psychology Today (March 26, 2012), in an article titled “Sexless Marriage is Surprisingly Common,” writer author Donna Flagg states that 15-20 percent of married couples in the U.S. are in sex-less marriages.With the current U.S. census of 60.3 million married people, that comes out to about 12 million people in sex-less marriages.
My conclusion from reviewing this data: 50 years ago, the contraceptive pill was seen as the ultimate method to free women from the fear of an unwanted pregnancy. The solution: a two-part hormonal steroid that creates a state of pseudo pregnancy. It’s illegal for a male to take steroids, but there seems to be different rules with the pill. Smith argues that the use of contraceptives has contributed more to the breakdown of the family and social turmoil than any other factor.
In Genesis, God gives us the commandment, “Be fruitful and multiply.” Marital love is not only healthy, it is beautiful and holy. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the document emphasizes that married couples are “consecrated for each other,” which forms the basis for the holiness of marital love. I encourage everyone to listen to this CD; give it to your teenagers and reflect on the goodness and graces associated with natural family planning. An updated version of “Contraception: Why Not” and a series of talks “Sexual Common Sense” are available through www.mycatholicfaith.org and www.janetesmith.org.
(Father Bill Kneemiller is pastor of Ss. Philip & James Parish, Grand Mound; Sacred Heart Parish, Lost Nation; St. James Parish, Toronto; and, Sacred Heart Parish, Oxford Junction.)