Question 24



 In a recent exchange on the Hannity – Colmes show, Fr. Tom Euteneuer of HLI took Sean Hannity to task for his public rejection of the Church’s teaching on contraception. Hannity is a high-profile Catholic, and his dissent lends great support to the many Catholics who are contraceptors. In his defense, Hannity asked: “Would you not rather (prefer) that people use birth control than abortion?” 

Let us consider the implications of this question. It has the tone of a talk-show bravado, but it still deserves an answer. The question presumes that one should choose the lesser of two evils. But if both are easily avoidable, why choose either? It is something like asking, “Would you not prefer robbing a bank to killing the bank president?” One ought to reject either alternative as totally unworthy of a person. 

At the base of Hannity’s question is the presumption that couples cannot practice self-restraint in sexual matters. They are going to have sex regardless of the consequences. Some couples will simply abort the unwanted child. And Hannity is against that. But, he reasons, if they can use contraception, then they can prevent an unwanted pregnancy, and the temptation to use abortion as a backup to failed contraception. Contraception eliminates the need for self-possession and self-mastery. 

But some self-mastery and self-restraint is necessary for any commitment to a human relationship. No one is exempt from acquiring self-control in the area of human sexuality. To refuse to acquire the will power required for self-mastery is to refuse an inevitable requirement of human maturity. We all understand the need for discipline in sports, academics, and the business world. Why can’t we understand the need for self-discipline over the most powerful of human drives? 

Hannity uses the argument that he cannot force his beliefs, or values, upon others who do not share his religious beliefs. He can only urge them to follow his moral reasoning as far as they are willing to go. He thinks that calling contraception morally evil is only a Catholic thing. But this ignores what contraception is, and how it diminishes the richness of the spousal act. As God designed the spousal act, it was meant to be the total personal gift of one’s self to another person, to whom you have committed yourself for life. It accepts no conditions, no restrictions. It requires the total gift of self to another, and the acceptance of the other’s total gift of self to you. Contraception is the deliberate withholding of one’s fertility from the other, which results in a conditioned and reserved giving. That is what makes contraception harmful to any marriage, and thus morally evil. Contracepted sex is a sex act, but it is not a spousal act. It uses a person as an object for one’s pleasure, even if this is mutually agreed upon. 

Hannity cannot see the difference between contraception and NFP. He calls NFP simply another form of birth control, one approved by the Catholic Church. But NFP totally respects God’s plan for spousal love; it always remains open to the goodness of our fertility and does not turn against it. Contraception suppresses our fertility, and depreciates it. Contraception means that seeking one’s pleasure trumps all other considerations and values. 

The truth of the matter is that contraception leads to more and more abortion. 60% of women who have an abortion were using some form of contraception. The contraceptive mentality turns against the goodness of nascent human life, and helps one to accept abortion if the contraceptive fails. When International Planned Parenthood wants to change the laws of a country which forbid abortion, they begin their strategy by promoting every form of contraception. They know that contraception inevitably leads to a demand for abortion. 

Neither of the alternatives that Hannity suggests is morally acceptable. The only proper solution is to honor the God of all life by respecting His plan for marriage and spousal love. 

Fr. Matthew Habiger OSB