The Synod on the Family and Contraception

The Synods on the family were called in 2014 to answer the exigent questions surrounding the breakdown of the family and how the Church might better minister to the flock considering the immense confusion and disorder most families face in the modern world. The XIV General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will take place from October 4-25, 2015, in Vatican City.

The stark matter of fact is that we are suffering grave confusion concerning the nature of the family and many of the crises we face in the modern world stem from the contraceptive mentality. So transformative is the sound bite culture propagated by the media image that the causes of our problems concerning the family have been obscured by rights ideologies and ubiquitous false teaching.

The new global culture’s definition of the family seems to evolve with every season and this is contrasted by the understanding of Holy Mother Church who holds only one permanent and unchanging definition of the family. The contraceptive mindset erodes the truth about the authentic nature of the family as the domestic church. Holy Mother Church calls us to order our families by conforming to the mind of Christ embodied by the Holy Family. The world calls us away from this vision by the enticements of false promises of freedom. The chaos that has ensued has been immense.

The Roots of the Contraceptive Mindset

Concerning one of the root cause of our current family crisis, we must take a closer look at the contraceptive mind set. Satan’s best work in this licentious age, after he separated rights from duties by the spirit of rebellious revolution, was to separate the marital act from its primary end of procreation. The secondary end of the marital act inside the bonds of marriage is the consummating truth that the two become one unified flesh by sacramental grace. It happens to be a tertiary artifact of the marital act that it is pleasurable as well, and if this pleasure is ordered to flow from the self-donating act of man and wife open to life, it is an edifying fruit of married life.

The false notion that the marital act is not primarily for procreation and unity, but principally for pleasure is a root cause of much confusion and the ground upon which the contraceptive mentality is established. People who commit the marital act or any other sexual act outside the bonds of sacramental marriage and ignore its primary ends are not self-donating but using another person in the quest for self-gratification. This violates eternal, divine and natural law. Conventional law increasingly contravenes and contradicts divine and natural law by instituting laws grounded in sexual license that promote contraception use and sexual activity outside of marriage.

The Protestant Rebellion against the Sacrament of Marriage

The Protestant Reformation planted the seed of the contraceptive mentality when it denied the sacramental and permanent nature of marriage. The Protestant thinking was that marriage was man’s invention and this served King Henry VIII well enough to consider that tearing asunder his marriage to Catherine of Aragon was only tearing asunder what man had joined, not what God had joined.

The idea that Holy Matrimony is not a sacrament was the initial deviation that laid the groundwork for the confusion that plagues the modern family today. Several hundred years of slow but steady disintegration of the true nature of marriage led to the disintegration of an understanding of the marital act as well. In the Protestant churches, this culminated in the pronouncement at the Lambeth Conference in 1930 that contraception was permissible. However, there were still those Protestants who saw the danger in the new approbation.

The Bishop of Oxford Charles Gore wrote a warning in 1930. He was aghast that the latest Lambeth Conference had overturned the prohibition against contraception. He opined that the conference ruling may fail to meet every abnormal case, yet nonetheless, he considered it a grave concern that the practice of contraception could become widespread because it is so hostile to the family. Bishop Gore issued an  “utter an emphatic warning against the use of unnatural means for the avoidance of conception, together with the grave dangers—physical, moral, and religious—thereby incurred, and against the evils with which the extension of such use threatens the race.” His warning was dire and exigent, but largely ignored and all but forgotten today.

A Root Cause of the Family Crisis: Contraception

The devastating aftermath of proliferating contraception use on the family is not easily noticed and it is much denied by modern minds untethered from common sense reality. The sexual revolution that followed the approval of contraception in the protestant churches had an effect on modern Catholic theologians and lay people alike who over the subsequent decades began to shift their thinking over to the contraceptive mentality as well. In 1968 when Pope Paul VI published his encyclical Humanae Vitae, most of the world was expecting the Catholic version of the Lambeth decision. It had become commonly held that the Church Teaching on the Ancient and permanent prohibition on contraception, from Onan in the Old Testament through the Dideche and every subsequent Catechism until the present age would be changed. The world was wrong!

Humanae Vitae came out in perfect accord with the perennial teaching of the Church, for as Jesus said “Truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.” Pope Paul VI not only reaffirmed the permanent truth about Catholic teaching on contraception, he went on to presciently predict that marriages, families and society would suffer if the use of contraception became common. Contraception has indeed become widespread propagated by false law and false teaching that it be made available universally. Pope Paul VI’s chilling predictions about the use of contraceptives have come to be fulfilled.

Pope Paul VI’s Four Warnings

The grave evil of contraception use comes with serious consequences well stated as warnings in Humanae Vitae. Pope Paul VI’s first warning was that contraception use would “lead to conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality.” These two things go hand in hand and one not need look further than the dramatic increase in divorce, abortion, and disease to see the vivid accuracy by the astronomical increase in these things since 1968. Sexual morality in this age has reached an all-time low and the root cause is contraception.

The Pope’s second warning is that man may lose “reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires.” Women are more objectified than ever now that the marital act is technologically separated from its final ends. The marital act has become the egocentric quest for self-gratification. The exponential increase in the objectification of woman is signaled by the explosion in pornography, declining media standards and popular cultural icons who sell the sexual objectification of women and men alike.

The Pope predicted greater abuses of power by the extended use of contraception when “this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law” is wielded as it is by our federal government today. The highest powers in this land encourage the use of contraceptives and thereby immoral and disordered sex acts that further degrade our society. We are almost powerless to protect our children from contraception’s deadly ideology, ubiquitous use and destructive outcomes.

The Pope’s final warning is that by the use of contraceptives, man would come to believe that he has unlimited dominion over his body and sexuality. The Pope asserts this point by saying that “just as man does not have unlimited dominion over his body in general, so also, and with more particular reason, he has no such dominion over his specifically sexual faculties.” The contraceptive mentality has led man to the false notion that he is his own creator operating as if he can become whatever he desires.

We Are Not Our Own Creators

Pope Paul VI reminds us that we are not our own creators and these four warnings he gave us have been fulfilled to a prolific degree. In the most profound sense, the crises in the modern family stem, in large part, from the contraceptive mentality and if we don’t make Church teaching clear on this, all other remedies will be fruitless.

The Ordinary Synod on the family intends to clarify pastoral remedies that may aid in evangelizing those who have been victimized by the devastating effects of an increasingly contraceptive and sexually licentious culture. This is a noble and necessary venture, but until we fully recognize the roots and ramifications of the contraceptive movement, we will continue to see further societal breakdown. The above warnings will continue to proliferate until Catholic families take a stand boldly against contraception.

The faithful and monogamous family open to life and opposed to all contraceptive ideology is the gold standard for building up civilization for the heavenly kingdom. As we learn from the Synods how we might more effectively evangelize the multitudinous broken families and shattered souls, let us also recover an authentic understanding of the nature of the family and the marital act. We must address and refute the contraceptive mentality head on and combat its further proliferation as we return to fidelity to Church Teaching. Let us begin this today in our own homes.

image: Paolo Bona /

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Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg is the executive director of the 7 Institutes at the Veritatis Splendor HQ project. He is a senior fellow at The American Principles Project and a senior fellow at The Cardinal Newman Society. He is on the Teacher Advisory Council at Sophia Institute Press for teachers where he has written Catholic curriculum for the past 8 years, he also serves on the advisory council for Aquinas Learning. Steven is a writer and speaker on education, culture, and the Faith.

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