Simcha Fisher has posted an excellent takedown of people who react badly to her having eight children, especially since Number Nine is on the way. Her point, boiled down, is: “They’re my kids, not my political manifesto! Get over yourselves!”
Amen, sister! Testify!
While most of her followers (I’m one of maybe three men; the rest are all mothers, mostly of four or more children) extended their congratulations, commiserations and occasional “Hey, I’m pregnant too”, one — Mary, a woman trying to work her way out of atheism — had this thought:
I think the issue is not: whether your adding more people to rural NH is going to overwhelm the world, but rather that [the Catholic Church] puts forth doctrine that basically always calls more children (rather than less) as a blessing, deems a mortal sin as using any method of contraception (including coitus interruptus as they talked about in the article you referenced) or having a contraceptive mentality even within a committed marriage.Personal choices have global repercussions when they are adopted globally. … Behavior only has consequences when it is amplified by many adopters. You know this. If everyone suddenly converted to Catholicism and practiced it according to doctrine, there would be a birth explosion, and you know that.
Some clarification: There was a reason people jokingly called coitus interruptus “Vatican roulette” — it was acceptable but not very efficient. [Correction: As Arbobius of Sicca points out below, coitus interruptus was not accepted; what was acceptable was the old "rythm method", which only looked at the calendar and not at anything biological. That was what people called "Vatican roulette"!—TL] The Creighton method of natural family planning (NFP) is also acceptable; whether it’s truly more effective than the Pill as is claimed … well, it’s better at least than CI. So strictly speaking, family planning isn’t a mortal sin.
The Pill is morally questionable because it has an abortifacient property; if an ovum is fertilized, it often can’t properly implant in the uterine wall. In fact, any contraceptive which has such a deadly effect on fertilized ova is verboten. Condoms, on the other hand, are considered wrong because it interposes a barrier between the flesh of the conjugal partners, not just physically but spiritually as well. (You see? Gratification isn’t irrelevant … it just needs the proper context!)
So if the Catholic Church does find a couple of contraceptive practices acceptable, then what do we mean by the “contraceptive mentality”? Let’s say scientists came up with an effective version of the Pill that didn’t have an abortifacient aspect to it … would that be acceptable?
No. The term “contraceptive mentality” refers to that mindset which treats marriage, sex and reproduction as separate entities with little to no reference to each other, rather than as an integrated whole. Moreover, it’s often found in connection with a mindset that regards childbearing and parenthood — especially motherhood — as positive evils. That's what contraceptives do: They split "sex" off into its own domain, which is unrealistic and unwise. [H/T to John for the correction.—TL]
Natural family planning has the merit of making the marriage partners work through their attitudes about themselves, each other, their marriage and children; while contraceptive devices and chemicals almost encourage carelessness and even risk-taking … especially when it’s promoted (deceitfully) as “safe sex”.
Now that we have these clarifications out of the way, we’re in a better position to analyze Mary’s objection. Certainly, personal choices magnified globally have global repercussions. The problem is, the analysis looks only at Catholic sexual teaching and ignores the rest of its doctrines.
“If everyone suddenly converted to Catholicism and practiced it according to doctrine,” employers would pay living wages; in fact, workers would have some ownership in the means of production, as well as a share of the profits. Everyone would have more than adequate access to food, shelter and decent health care. Both renewable and non-renewable resources would be much better distributed, and better stewardship of natural resources would result.
There would be some loss of GDP as less money were spent on law enforcement (unnecessary, as everyone would obey laws that would all be just), military (unnecessary, as whole nations would find peaceful means of settling their differences), and luxuries (wouldn’t necessarily disappear, just less demand). The legal profession would be limited to arbitrating disputes, which wouldn’t pay nearly as much as lawsuits. On the other hand, teachers would be paid much better, and the money now being spent on researching weapons would be redirected to other socially useful science.
There might still be a gap between rich and poor, but not nearly as wide, and the poor would be better provided for. The greed, sloth and gluttony that drives a big portion of our resource consumption would be — well, not gone but under far better control. People would refrain from sex outside of marriage, reducing the transmission of STDs to zero; there would be no such thing as illegitimate, unwanted, abused or neglected children. Best of all, there would be little to no need for government intervention to make this happen, because it would all be grass-roots … hell, there’d be very little need for government!
In other words, if all seven billion of us started practicing all the doctrines of the Church, the presumed grounds for population control wouldn’t even obtain. Catholicism, thoughtfully and rigorously implemented by universal consent, would create the “workers’ paradise” Communism never could.
You must understand I’m not saying this is ever gonna happen. Even if Catholicism were imposed as the only permissible religion world-wide and its practices made mandatory, human failings would subvert it. There would still be injustices, inequities, injuries, misery, sickness and starvation precisely because Catholicism is true: man is a fallen creature, capable of good but prone to evil. Or, as G. K. Chesterton put it, “The Catholic Church is justified, not because her children do not sin, but because they do.”
Personal choices, multiplied globally, do have global repercussions. That’s why we have laws. Moreover, that’s why the Church puts such a premium on chastity, marital fidelity and continence: because sex is a choice, not a requirement.
Now, if only we could get the rest of the world to see it that way ….