Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you?
By Fr. Chris Smith, p.v.,
Homily for the 2nd Sunday of in ordinary time
The Austrian man who invented the birth control pill, Carl Djerassi, has just published an interview in the Vatican newspaper in which he refers to his invention as a demographic catastrophe. Early twentieth century thinkers were convinced of that now debunked myth of global overpopulation. The founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, advocated contraception as part of a racist plan associated with Nazi groups in the United States, as she boldly stated, “Colored people are like weeds and need to be exterminated.” In 1930, the Church of England became the first Christian body to allow for contraception. One by one every Protestant denomination gave the green light for birth control, so by 1968, everyone assumed that the Catholic Church would sooner or later get with the program.
So when Pope Paul VI issued his famous encyclical Humana vitae, the world was caught by surprise. The man who invented the pill, and just about everyone else, reacted violently. Forty years later Carl Djerassi called Paul VI a prophet. The Pope cautioned that to accept artificial contraception was to divorce two things which by their very nature belonged together: sex and procreation. The consequences of such a divorce would be disastrous, he said, but most people felt that if such a technology has been developed surely God could not be against the interests of science? So the vast majority of Catholics in America agreed to disagree.
What has happened since then? An entire generation of priests, bishops and women religious set themselves against the Pope. They counseled people to follow their conscience without also informing them of the grave duty to form their conscience according to divine and natural law. Their seminaries and convents are empty, and families are much smaller today.
Contraception creates the illusion of freedom: without children, a couple can be happier because they do not have more material burdens. Contracepting couples became accustomed to a greater ease in fulfilling whatever wants and needs they had; economic prosperity created a world in which anything was possible. But the children born to these families grew up not with the virtue of self-sacrifice, but with the vice of self-gratification. And so now the children put their parents away when they get old because they don’t have the time or desire to deal with them; the old folks get in the way of their self-gratification. The population implosion has imbalanced age demographics and the financial crisis of the entire world was precipitated not in small part by the greed which unrestrained self-gratification has wrought.
Paul VI said that if contraception were to become pervasive, a whole host of other evils would result. Marriage by its nature has two ends: procreation of children and the union of the spouses. If you get rid of one, then the other follows suit. So is it a surprise that the rate of divorce has skyrocketed since 1968? I have never counseled a couple who was divorcing who was not using contraception. The breakdown of their parents’ marriages has led a younger generation to question the viability of the institution of marriage. Even despite the fact that 70% of couples who live together subsequently divorce, cohabiting young people think their trial marriage will ensure its success later on, as if entering into a fake marriage with the idea that you can get out it would somehow guarantee its permanence after the vows. Sex removed from its natural consequences has led to the explosion of pornography, which has now become practically inescapable to anyone who owns a computer or television. Marriage itself is being redefined to mean practically nothing more than a convenient partnership of two persons who live together until boredom doth them part. Sex removed from its natural consequences has led to abortion being seen as rearranging matter, fertility as a disease. Meanwhile the crisis of infertility continues to grow and scientists are just now beginning to realize the ecological effects that the hormones released by birth control pills into the atmosphere is having on both male fertility and the environment.
The Catholic Church appears before this comedy of errors of the world without God kind of like the boy in the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes. She is ready to point out that sin has its consequences, but everyone worshipping the potentate of self-gratification wants to keep up the farce. Many people think that their little private sin remains between them and God, and having put a barrier between them and God by repeated sin, their darkened intellects and weakened wills still refuse to acquiesce to the evidence.
The human body is not an instrument for self-gratification. Defying the laws of nature and God may give you the illusion of material happiness for a little while, but it is fruitless and dangerous for the soul. The body is not for immorality, but for the LORD, and the LORD is for the body. We cannot pretend that our souls can be pure when we misuse our bodies. Weakness is there, the acquired habit of vice may excuse us from some of the culpability of sin, the pressure of the culture may make it seem impossible at times to follow the teachings of the Church, but we must continually ask ourselves: why did God make me and why did He make my body? What does He expect of my body? Saint Paul pointedly reminded the Corinthians, who were know throughout the ancient world for trying to divorce sex from its natural consequences even back then, Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you?
Technology is a great thing and can be used for great good. But some things which may seem to be good at first turn out to be catastrophic. Frankenstein’s monster was a science experiment grown terribly awry; Mary Shelley’s curious doctor thought that he could open the secret to the origins of human life by assembling parts of a dead man together. But the creature turned on him and destroyed everything he loved. We must be careful not to tinker with the body in ways contrary to God’s pan for it. The immorality of doing so has a powerful way of taking a ghastly life of its own and destroying marriages, families, and souls.