Question 82

WHY CONTRACEPTION MATTERS : An Introduction to Stephen Patton’s remarkable talk


An Introduction to Stephen Patton’s remarkable talk 

One More Soul, which is probably the largest distributor of pro-NFP literature, has just released a remarkable new talk entitled, "Why Contraception Matters," by Stephen Patton, Family Life Director for the Diocese of St. Augustine. With compassion, insight and humor, Patton speaks to the majority of Catholics, priests and laity alike, who see abortion and divorce as huge problems of the modern age, but who don't see how contraception is any big deal. He shows how indeed the three are intimately interconnected. Here is how he begins his talk, which very well captures the confusion that dominates the modern Church. 

To get your copy of this remarkable CD, go to

Cordially yours, 
Fr. Matthew Habiger OSB

I’d like to tell you about three people: a priest and a married couple. They’re fictional characters, but in a sense they’re quite real. Each represents a composite of the views of many actual priests and married couples in the United States today. 

First, let me introduce you to Fr. Friendly. Fr. Friendly is loved and respected by his parishioners, and he loves and respects them. He knows all about the many temptations and tensions they face every day, and so he makes it a point to teach them often about God’s compassion and mercy. But of all the many issues that weigh down upon his flock, and so weigh down upon him, two stand out: abortion and divorce. 

While he’s not what you might call an activist pro-life priest, he knows that abortion is a grave crime against the unborn. He has even occasionally preached about it, although always with compassion. He knows that most women make that awful decision not so much as a free choice, but because they didn’t think they really had a choice. He wants to reach out to them, and he wants to keep anyone else from making that same terrible decision. He wishes he could pinpoint why it is that so many people, including so many seemingly good Catholics, still fall prey to this sin by the hundreds of thousands. 

He likewise grieves the epidemic of divorce. He has personally ministered to dozens of broken marriages and families. It saddens him deeply that this could happen to so many good couples, especially those who seemed to have it all together: regular church-goers, kind people, parents who love their children. He has preached about the sanctity of marriage, he has encouraged distressed couples to go to counseling, he promotes marriage enrichment programs. And yet the divorces continue to multiply. 

One topic Fr. Friendly has never preached about, though, is contraception. He knows use of it is against the official teaching of the Catholic Church, and he also knows that most Catholics don’t comply with that teaching. He doesn’t preach about this or bring it up in confession, though. He figures, with all the other burdens his flock is already carrying, he shouldn’t lay that one on them too. He suspects there is something wrong with contraception, but he’s always figured that it’s not really that big a deal, and that there are more important things to talk about. 

Now let me introduce you to Mr. & Mrs. Goodpeople. The Goodpeople’s are active, contributing members of Fr. Friendly’s parish, and in each of the areas I just mentioned their views are virtually identical to his. They know that abortion is wrong and they don’t think anyone should ever have one. They’re also saddened at the epidemic of divorce all around them, in their own family and among their closest friends. They just can’t understand what’s going on. They take their own marriage seriously and they wish every couple would do the same. 

But if they’re in tune with the teachings of the Church when it comes to abortion and divorce, they’re not when it comes to contraception. Mrs. Goodpeople has been on the Pill since she became sexually active as a teenager. No one ever told her there was anything wrong with this – not her parents, not her peers, not her teachers, not her doctors, not her priests. They’ve either said contraception was the good and responsible thing to do, or they’ve said nothing at all. For Mr. Goodpeople it was much the same. So, the two of them took this way of thinking into their marriage. Except for when they wanted to conceive, they’ve always used contraception. 

Every now and then they’ve heard something about the Catholic Church “frowning upon” contraception, or that it “disapproves of” it. But they’ve never heard that it’s a serious sin. It’s never been explained to them how it offends God and harms us. Somewhere along the line they’ve also heard rumors about something called NFP, but they’ve never looked into it. They don’t know anyone who takes it seriously, apparently including Fr. Friendly. The Goodpeople’s want to do the right thing, and they’d probably be open to learning about the church’s teaching if it was ever presented to them. But unless that happens they’re going to just keep on using contraception and eventually will probably also choose to get sterilized. 

It’s to all of you Fr. Friendly’s and Mr. and Mrs. Goodpeople’s out there that I offer these thoughts. I want to show you two things. First, I want to show you why contraception really is a big deal. I want to show you that no matter how passionate you or any of us might be about stopping abortion and divorce, until we start changing our own contraceptive views and practices, we’re never going to see an end to either of those two evils. 

Second, I want to bring all this home to us as a Church. What kind of effect, on us, does our complicity with the contraceptive mentality have? And what can we do about it?