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The Weblog at The View from the Core - Thu. 01/06/05 08:16:24 AM
Life & Marriage
The facts we forgot, to our sorrow, and now must relearn.
Thanks to a reader for having forwarded this e-mail message from Austin Ruse, president of the Culture of Life Foundation (which I present without editing, because I just don't feel like doing it).
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CULTURE & COSMOS
January 4, 2005 Volume 2, Number 22
Social Science Confirms Harmful Effects of Contraception
The predictions found in Pope Paul VI's encyclical affirming the Catholic Church's constant teaching that artificial contraception is wrong have been confirmed by the social sciences which show that ignoring the Church doctrine on sex and marriage is harmful to individuals and society. These are the findings of a Nobel Prize winning social scientist.
Writing in the current issue of Touchstone Magazine University of Virginia professor W. Bradford Wilcox writes that when the encyclical, "Humane Vitae," was published in 1968 it was surrounded with controversy. In it Pope Paul said widespread use of contraception would lead to "conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality." The Pope said men would no longer respect women but would treat them as a "mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion."
"Humane Vitae's" publication was met with vigorous protest by many prominent American clergy who were also academics. They said the Church's continued ban on contraception proved that Church authorities were indifferent to the plight of "real people." Thirty-six years later Wilcox says that an examination of the effects of the contraceptive mentality on society shows that it is those who dissent from "Humane Vitae" that are indifferent.
Wilcox, an assistant professor of sociology at UVA, cites research by six scholars which shows contraception to be responsible for a significant rise in divorce and illegitimacy, both of which lead to other social ills like heightened rates of criminal behavior and increased high school drop out rates. Wilcox also argues that the poor are especially susceptible to the harms caused by the contraceptive culture. Wilcox notes that the research is not partisan. "The leading scholars who have tackled these topics are not Christians, and most of them are not political or social conservatives"
Robert Michael, of the University of Chicago, believes that sudden widespread use of artificial contraception and the availability of abortion is responsible for "about half of the increase in divorce from 1965 to 1976." Wilcox cites George Akerlof, a Nobel prize-winning economist, who provides an economic explanation for why widespread use of artificial contraception resulted in an increase in illegitimacy rather than a decrease as many predicted.
According to Akerlof, traditional women who wanted to either abstain from sex or at least receive a promise from their boyfriend that he would marry her in the case of pregnancy could no longer compete with "modern" women who embraced contraception. This created an environment in which premarital sex became the norm and women "felt free or obligated to have sex." "Thus, many traditional women ended up having sex and having children out of wedlock, while many of the permissive women ended up having sex and contraception or aborting so as to avoid childbearing. This explains in large part why the contraceptive revolution was associated with an increase in both abortion and illegitimacy."
Wilcox says contraceptives remove one of the key reasons to getting married, the moral incentive. And while many members of the middle and upper classes marry because they know it serves their economic interest, the second key incentive for marrying, the poor are much more likely to marry solely for moral reasons. The result is that in the contraceptive era the poor have even less of an incentive to marry than do other classes. For this reason the poor have been hit even harder by the negative consequences that came about through widespread use of contraceptives.
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Here is the Touchstone article to which Ruse refers:
.... The first problem is that the accommodationist agenda is based on bad social science. When most of these intellectuals were in their prime, the best social science suggested that the ideal posture of the church to “family change,” as it was euphemistically called, was one of acceptance and support. But contemporary social science on the contentious issues of our time — such as contraception, divorce, and cohabitation — suggests just the opposite conclusion. The shifts in sexual and familial behavior to which these dissenters would like the church to accommodate herself have been revealed in study after study to be social catastrophes.
Let me be perfectly clear: The leading scholars who have tackled these topics are not Christians, and most of them are not political or social conservatives. They are, rather, honest social scientists willing to follow the data wherever it may lead. And the data has, as we shall see, largely vindicated Christian moral teaching on sex and marriage. So the intellectual foundation for dissent on moral matters is collapsing.
The second problem with the dissenting agenda is that its moral laxity has been most disastrous for the most vulnerable members of our society: the poor. The poor have paid and continue to pay the highest price for the cultural revolution that Curran, Greeley, McBrien, and others would like the church to baptize....
So the bottom line is this: The research of Nobel-prize-winning economist George Akerlof suggests that the tragic outworkings of the contraceptive revolution were sexual license, family dissolution, crime, and poisoned relations between the sexes — and that the poor have paid the heaviest price for this revolution. This research suggests that the Catholic Church’s firm commitment to the moral law in the face of dramatic and widespread dissent from within and without is being vindicated in precincts that are not normally seen as sympathetic to Catholic teaching.
This research also suggests that the dissenting agenda advanced by people like Andrew Greeley amounts to a false compassion. Greeley is right to claim that the Holy Spirit speaks through people’s experiences; but a sober look at our experience with contraception reveals that the Catholic Church’s magisterium, and the Christian tradition it conveys, best advances the earthly happiness of men, women, and children, not contraception....
In Growing Up with a Single Parent, written with her colleague Gary Sandefur of the University of Wisconsin, McLanahan argued that the intact, two-parent family does four key things for children. First, children benefit from the economic resources that mothers and particularly fathers bring to the household through work and sometimes family money. Second, children see their parents model appropriate male-female relations, including virtues like fidelity and self-sacrifice in the context of a marital relationship.
Third, because both parents are invested in the child, they spell one another in caring for their children, and they monitor one another’s parenting. This reduces stress, helps to insure that parents are not too strict or too permissive, and makes the intact family much more likely than other family arrangements to forestall abuse. Finally, fathers often serve as key guides to children seeking to negotiate the outside world as adolescents and young adults. Fathers introduce them to civic institutions and the world of work, and provide them with key contacts in these worlds....
It has been seventy years since [in 1930] the Anglican Church allowed contraception in cases of “dire necessity,” and it is hard to see how contraception has made our collective lives better. Humanity still has wars, starvation, strife, disease, pestilence, oppression, persecution, and inequity, just as Jesus said we would. In addition to these ancient problems we now have epidemic divorce, the collapse of families, and a virulent new venereal plague. Promiscuity has become the new and acceptable norm, at least in the West. In Humanae vitae Pope Paul said that these calamities would result if contraception were to become widespread and regarded as acceptable. They would happen because the institution of marriage would be broken and sex would be depraved. It looks like that celibate bachelor was right. (Rachel Fay, This Rock magazine, April 1998, page 15)
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