The founder of Planned Parenthood has a few words for the Pope on birth control.
One-third of the women who come to the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau in New York are Catholics and the remainder are about equally divided between Protestants and Jews. This has been so for several years, and it indicates that, at least in one important locality, religious affiliation makes no difference one way or the other in the practice of birth control. However, the official teaching of the Catholic church, even though ignored by many of its members, is sometimes an obstacle to general approval of the birth-control movement by political leaders unwilling to oppose the authorities of that church.
My own position is that the Catholic doctrine is illogical, not in accord with science, and definitely against social welfare and race improvement. I hope to make this clear by analyzing the statements of Pope Piux XI in his encyclical letter “Of Chaste Marriage,” which was issued about a year ago.
Evidently the Pope was alarmed by the rapid advance of the birth-control movement, for he complains that an “utterly perverse” morality is “gradually gaining ground” and “has begun to spread even among the faithful.” He therefore instructs the faithful how to regulate their conjugal life without the benefit of science and according to theories written by St. Augustine, also a bachelor, who died fifteen centuries ago. All through the encyclical the Pope lays stress on authority. He alludes to himself as one “whom the Father has appointed over His field,” and holds that the Catholic church is the only authorized guardian and interpreter of a “divine law” applying to marriage. Some of these assertions may be questioned by theologians, but be that as it may, let us try to follow the Pope’s reasoning about conjugal matters.
To begin with, he admits that sexual desire is in itself something that can at least claim respectful consideration. This appears in the following passage:
For in matrimony…there are also secondary ends, such as mutual aid, the cultivating of mutual love, and the quieting of concupiscence, which husband and wife are not forbidden to consider so long as they are subordinated to the primary end and so long as the intrinsic nature of the act is preserved.
Since “the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children,” we understand that when husband and wife experience the sexual urge, they may act in the natural way providing the aim is to make the woman pregnant. But would the Pope permit intercourse in cases where pregnancy is impossible, as, for instance, after a woman has passed beyond the age of child-bearing? He says:
Nor are those considered as acting against nature who in the married state use their right in the proper manner, although on account of natural reasons, either of time or of certain defects, new life cannot be brought forth.