Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Pinterest Connect on Google Plus Connect on LinkedIn

Contraception: Sexism’s Greatest Ally

July 24, AD2014

Something I have always found so intriguing within the parameters of women’s rights debates and feminist issues is how incredibly sacred contraception is to so many women today.

It is lauded as a non-negotiable, absolutely critical component to female liberation and body autonomy, a major player in women’s rights and freedom. What joy it is for women to have complete control over how, when, or even if they decide to bear children—or so the story goes.

But as all things of the secular realm (and yes, contraception is a product rooted in the desires of the flesh), what presents itself as an icon of freedom and liberation is, beneath the surface, oppression.

Contraception does not free women from the bonds of sexism. It does not break the chains of the “patriarchy”. Contraception, like abortion, exists to control them, to regulate them, and is one of sexism’s greatest weapons against them.

Of course I, a man, would say that, wouldn’t I? How dare I suggest that the thing that allows women to become more than stay at home baby machines could in actuality be a tool used to oppress them?

I dare, because for men, birth control translates into three of the most anti-woman words in existence:

Consequence. Free. Sex.

Birth control is really a misnomer. Rather than granting women true control over their sexuality and fertility, contraception chemically alters them into sterile vessels to be used for only pleasure while maintaining the illusion that they are the ones in the captain’s chair.

It is a synthetic means of regulating a woman’s nature in order to further establish sexism’s greatest heresy: That women exist to please men.

The only means of true control, true body autonomy, is respecting and protecting your sexuality and fertility and practicing chastity until you enter into the marriage union with your spouse.

But that’s not the way of the world. In fact, you’re told that controlling your body through will, self-mastery, and abstinence is too unrealistic. It can’t be done. Women cannot and should not control their sexuality, so take a pill instead. Give yourself away to whomever. Give only a fraction of yourself to your spouse, because that’s real freedom.

And that is a lie.

It is a lie from the same realm that claims that the Church is the true enemy of female liberation, that the Church’s stance on birth control and abortion are primitive and oppressive and anti-woman.

Yet, quite ironically, the Church is the one establishment in our society that actually seeks to give women true freedom. Where contraception stifles women, the Church elevates them. It encourages them to master the gift that God has given them, to safeguard their very nature, and to protect themselves from those who seek only to use them. The Church says that every bit of what makes the woman unique is sacred, and none of it is to be altered, destroyed, or oppressed, but celebrated.

However, society has reversed this. It has raised contraception to a sacrament and so many women have bought into it thinking that they were taking control over themselves when really they were playing straight into the hands of the “patriarchy” they so desperately wish to escape.

Contraception is oppression, and as the Catholic faithful it should be in our prayers every day that women who have been deceived by the false promises liberation will break the bonds of sexual tyranny and find true freedom within the Church.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Matthew is a Catholic convert, blogger, and fan of all things espionage. He was raised in the deep South where he resides today with his wife and son. You can check him out on The Mackerel Snapper Blog and follow him on Twitter at @MackSnapMatt.

If you enjoyed this essay, subscribe below to receive a daily digest of all our essays.

Thank you for supporting us!

  • Pingback: Everyone Is Wrong About Sex - Catholic Stand : Catholic Stand()

  • Elijah fan

    I’m afraid the ultimate sexist paragraph in all of Church history comes from Augustine who not only condemned contraception but also impulsively once slighted the natural methods in a letter to his former Manichaean leader…and in the latter one time incident he has a small group of sexual providentialist followers on the web at the far trad end of the spectrum.
    Now remember, Augustine was over sexed for ten years of fornication and during that time, his mistress was good for one thing mainly…sex. After he repented, he writes this awful subconscious slip which nows sees women as AGAIN only good for one thing…procreation:

    ” St. Augustine, De genesi ad litteram, 9, 5-9
    “I don’t see what sort of help woman was created to provide man with, if one excludes the purpose of procreation. If woman was not given to man for help in bearing children, for what help could she be? To till the earth together? If help were needed for that, man would have been a better help for man. The same goes for comfort in solitude. How much more pleasure is it for life and conversation when two friends live together than when a man and a woman cohabitate?”

    Sadly, a full 700 years goes by and Aquinas repeats this quote plus affirms it twice in his own renditions of the same idea. You’ll notice Augustine’s text seems gay in its implications of the last sentence. Thank the Lord no one in the media knew his words around the year 2002 when the media was again breaking the sex abuse scandal.

  • BillinJax

    The reason we have a rapidly evolving secular society is that currently a major
    portion of our citizens have been raised in homes without a mother and father
    who have or planned to be married to each other for life and were mostly
    educated in schools where God and prayer had been excluded from the curriculum.
    When family life where children were welcomed as a gift from God by two god
    fearing adult parents, one working and the other at home, and not seen as an
    accidental by-product of sheer physical passion there was a good chance for
    them to become responsible members of society. Unfortunately modern living, led
    by the uncontrolled lust in the hearts of mankind and liberalism’s always
    enticing boast of freeing mankind from the bonds of religious scruples, in the
    last century handed evil the lethal weapons to destroy families.

    The beauty and wonder of the Conception of a child in the
    womb of its mother was chosen as a target at the very beginning of socialism
    and its liberal agenda to accomplish the “fundamental transformation of America”
    way before the current regime and their announced messiah appeared on the
    national scene. The cry from the desert of dome was that the world God had made
    for us was in grave danger of Over Population. We had to save the earth from
    being over run with new life? The pictures accompanying every deceitful article
    echoing that cry were not of cute toddlers in their mother’s arms or on happy
    playgrounds or in pleasant classrooms learning of the beauty of God’s good
    earth. No, we were shown starving skin and bone figures in poor countries of Africa
    and Asia where Christian missionaries were trying to
    bring the truth of the gospels to the people. Ironically this deceitful
    campaign gained support at a time when tens of millions of innocent humans all
    over the world had just been ritually slaughtered by godless dictators and
    imperial rulers before, during and after World War II.

    Contraception in all its forms, as part of the selfish
    passion for freedom from individual responsibility, was hailed as a redeeming
    blessing for not only married couples who wished not to have the obligation of
    raising a family but also to any and all who desired to be romantically
    involved prior to or in lieu of marriage. The personal benefits and blessing of
    conjugal love which God had reserved for married couples to have families and
    procreate were transformed and disguised as simply human rights suddenly
    ordained and made available by the secular progressives to everyone without
    having to pledge eternal companionship or bare the obligations of parenthood.
    Giving those with a taste for such freedom, the media offered public cover by
    naming their cause a Sexual Revolution. Driven by the desire to avoid personal
    responsibility at any price¸ rejecting any mention of chastity, this was the harbinger of societal
    perversion as well as the precursor and foundation for what eventually became
    our own national plague, Abortion.

    One might easily define the demise of American family life by its two most
    revealing concepts, contraception and abortion. One opposed the creative nature
    God granted to the union of a man and a woman joined in Holy Matrimony and the
    other sought to challenge the very involvement of God in the equation. Both
    have at the center of its premise the denial that man is the product of the
    goodness and abundance of God’s love and that man was not made in His image and
    likeness. Therefore, there is no such thing as procreation and God had no
    purposeful design for the ability of mankind to reproduce.
    Liberalism, like Humanism, stops short of denying the existence of God least they lose the
    basis for the goodness of man which provides them some footing to espouse
    their false philosophy of life. This is the same as the satanic Temptation of
    Christ when he was asked to forsake his divine nature and simply be human
    and follow the commands of one who would provide him with all he would
    ever need. The lord of lies has hope; hope that we do not recognize him among
    those who have unknowingly followed him and wish to control us.

    The world witnessed recently the liberal dominated
    democratic national convention purposely attempting to remove all mention of
    God from their platform to proudly but foolishly proclaim what could be called
    a doctrine of the cultural of death. However, they reasoned prior to the
    election was not good timing for exposing the under belly of their agenda and
    leaders hastily overruled the mobs there present shouting for its approval.

    We have to admit we have many elitists in our fold as
    politicians, entertainers, educators, or media reporters who are giving aid and
    comfort to the evil enemies of our faith, and we need to identify them and
    officially notify them they can not be in communion with us and continue to
    cooperate in the erosion of our values and doctrines. Hopefully our new Pope
    Francis, with the fervent prayers of the faithful, can turn the tide of tyranny
    in the Church and if need be become a smaller but holier flock for him to shepherd.

    • james

      Actually, it was the good sisters who taught us that science and technology was going to
      “suck the life out of mankind”. But your scenarios do make a good case for extinction in
      which case all sin would disappear – esp.when Purgatory is revealed to be reincarnation – as there will be no one coming back to screw things up. .

  • JefZeph

    Matthew, is there a Braille version of this post available? You seem to have an inordinate number of comments from the blind.

    • @JefZeph…regardless of your position on this issue, regardless of your lane attempt at metaphor, regardless of your intention…your comment which references the blind and the use of Braille is ableist in its kindest interpretation. You do not use disability nor disabled persons to make a specious argument, no matter if metaphorically. It degrades, dehumanizes and devalues members of the disability community. I am confident that you could have asserted your position without reference to the blind and their use of Braille to communicate. You should either be ashamed or plead ignorance,,,,,,

    • JefZeph

      If there were one single person who is actually visually disabled who believes I was talking about them, then they would be even more dim-witted than you appear to be.

  • EW

    Um, no. How patronizing. How degrading to both men and women. As if we are just juveniles or animals who need a fear of “consequences” to treat each other like persons. Columns like this contribute to why most Catholic women don’t take the Church’s teaching seriously; her apologists are terrible.

    Women are intelligent enough to make choices that empower them. 98% of women, including most married women, choose to use contraception because they have discerned that it improves their lives. If it is so horrible, women are fully empowered to not use it. Some women make that choice. Many of us who use contraception are happily married Catholic women and mothers. We use contraception so we can bond with our husbands and attend to the children we already have without the constant stress of charting, temp taking, mucus touching, and likelyhood of additional pregnancies.

    Pregnancy is HARD on a woman – it can even be deadly. Being able to easily control when and how we bring new life into the world, utilizing a method that works best for us, whether that is NFP, an IUD, the Pill, etc, is extremely empowering.

    And why does sex have to have “consequences”? How degrading. Sex is unitive for married couples, as well as procreative. Not every act has to be procreative for a marriage to be life giving. Aren’t most we adult enough to treat each other with dignity, because we are human beings and not animals? Are husbands and wives just beasts who are slaves to biology and whose behavior only responds to “consequences” like Pavlov’s rats? How demeaning to both men and women. My husband and other men treat me with dignity because I’m a person, a human being, not because my fertility is constantly available. A man who needs to see a woman in light of her fertility, as a potential “consequence,” in order to respect her as a person is a juvenile or a jerk.

    I have used contraception. This did not prevent me from waiting until I was in my late 20s to have sex with my husband only. This did not prevent me from embracing motherhood when we were ready, nor did it prevent my husband and I from having serious conversations about children, love, and the meaning of sex. It does not prevent my husband from respecting my denial when I am not in mood, nor does it prevent us from embracing periods of abstinence with a spirit of sacrifice when we have needed to for other reasons (such as a surgery or other medical issue). He doesn’t treat me like someone who is constantly available for “consequence free sex” because he sees me as a PERSON and he is a mature and adult MAN who doesn’t need “consequences” to control himself or respect a woman. I have always treated myself with dignity and demanded to be treated with dignity in return. Contraception just has given me a tool to manage my fertility in a way that works best for our marriage.

    There have always been people who have treated sex cheaply and women have always suffered and been sexually objectified by men. Rape, abuse, prostitution, spousal abandonment, and adultery have all be incredibly common throughout history – they were actually far more common in the past than they are today. Contraception does not cause these things. Modern women have more legal rights, more of a voice in society, and are treated with far more human and personal dignity – as friends, co-workers, intellectual companions, equal partners under the law and in marriage – than women in past generations who were often just whores, broads and housewives to be used for their niche purpose by the men in their lives, without regard to their own needs or legal rights as persons.

    All contraception does do is give couples a less stressful and more effective way to plan their children. That’s it. Which is very empowering for both men and women.

    • Matthew

      I’m want to comment on two points you made here.

      First, you put NFP in the same category as the pill or and IUD. I think he biggest misconception is that NFP is “Catholic birth control” but it isn’t. NFP is a way of working with your natural fertility, and if you’re not ready for a child, it gives the gift of fertility back to God instead of shutting it off with synthetic means. NFP invites God in, contraception shuts Him out. At the same time, NFP, even when trying to avoid a pregnancy, is still ordered towards life, where contraception is not.

      On another note, you mention that sex is unitive for married couples and also procreative. That’s very true, but it’s unitive and pleasurable precisely because it’s procreative. Procreation comes first in sex. Always. It unites man and wife in love, but is first ordered towards life.

      Contraception destroys the procreative part of the marriage act and makes it an inward expression of pleasure only, and that is a misguided understanding of the marital act. There’s no other way to spin it.

    • EW

      Obsessively charting, touching mucus, and taking your temperature to avoid a pregnancy is not “ordered to life”. It is having deliberately non-procreative sex, it is using the woman’s cycle to render sexual acts non-procreative, and is no different in nature or intention than contraception – especially withdrawal, which uses “natural rhythms” also, yet – for no reason – is considered less open to life than NFP, even though it is effectively the same thing – the man using his natural rhythms to withhold his fertility, rather than the woman using her natural rhythms to withhold her fertility.

      Just saying “it is open to life” doesn’t make it so, and the Church saying so doesn’t make it so. The church has been wrong and changed her mind before; she can be wrong and potentially change her mind again.

      Couples who completely avoid each other, often for months at a time, because they are terrified of a baby are not “inviting God in.” It is absurd that NFP groups tout the supposed “high effectiveness of NFP” for avoiding pregnancy while also claiming it is “open to life”. How does that make any sense? “Here is an effective way to make sex sterile – but it is so open to life!” Huh? Couples don’t reject the church’s teaching because they are selfish or of ill will – they reject it because it is totally illogical.

      Either it is OK to have non-procreative sex or it isn’t. The church has said non procreative sex is OK – but then, without a clear or logical reason, she has micromanaged which method couples use to do so. Especially when there is nothing intrinsically sinful about using medical devices or medication – she even specifically mentions the Pill being acceptable – in other circumstances. Epidurals cover up a naturally occurring, healthy function (pain in labor) but the church doesn’t teach that those are a sin. Plenty of medications regulate or manipulate healthy aspects of the body for the overall wellness of people, but the Church is silent on those.

      So we have an end (non procreative sex) that is supposedly licit. And a means (medication and medical devices) that are not inherently evil. But put them together and it is an intrinsic evil? Most Catholics find that ridiculous, because it is.

      And a couple who uses contraception with the attitude that “if it fails, oh well, we accept the baby from God” are not completely closed off to life. Many married couples who I know who use contraception use it with this mentality. They use contraception because it is an easy to way to steeply diminish the probability of children at an imprudent time, but welcome an “oops” if it happens with loving arms.

      And no, procreation does not always come first. The church doesn’t even teach that. In that sense Humanae Vitae was a change …er, “development”… from previous teachings.

      Contraception does not “destroy” the procreative aspect of marriage. It regulates it, according the prudent decisions of the parents. Most married couples who use contraception have children, often multiple children, or intend to have children in the future, and they use contraception to facilitate prudent decisions about childbearing. They continue to discuss and pray about children, and they listen to what God is calling them and their family to.

      The church has not made a convincing argument to most couples that there is a real, logical difference between NFP and contraception, or that a marriage act that is deliberately non-procreative is somehow an “inward” act of pleasure. Most married couples experience these acts as a shared, unitive act of pleasure that in real reality strengthen their unitive bond, and a strong unitive bond contributes to a happier, more life-giving home for children. My husband and I had happily married parents, we know how vital that bond is to a happy childhood, and we use contraception now because we take that bond and the kind of home we provide for our little daughters very seriously.

      Saying it’s an “inward expression of pleasure only” is just empty, abstract words – words that can’t be proven, can’t be logically explained, words with no relevance to or evidence from the actual experiences of married men and women.

      The Church’s case is very weak. And it is definitely not helped by hyperbolic and insulting articles like this one. I was once very open to considering Humanae Vitae, back when I was an undergraduate at Steubenville, but the apologetics surrounding it are just so awful. I grew up in a fairly moderate, mainstream family, with contracepting parents who had a happy marriage, and so the constant hyperbole about contraception being the end of the world was a complete turn off; it didn’t ring true at all. That is not the only reason I rejected it (the horrific experiences of other couples with NFP and the actual poor logic of the encyclical are some other reasons), but it sure contributed.

      Something surrounded by this much lies and BS cannot be of God. It is a teaching that makes God too small, and too petty. And while I would gladly die in a ditch for the Gospel, I’m not going to die in a ditch for some sophisticated hairsplitting that has nothing to do with God, that is ignored by the faithful, and that I’m sure will be “developed” away in the next 50-100 years with a Mea Culpa from the Church.

    • Guest

      This is all simply wrong. NFP does not allow “non procreative” sex. In fact, it does not alter the act in anyway. All your conclusions flow from erroneous premises.

    • EW

      Taking the Pill does not alter the act itself either. It merely extends the infertile period. Nor does sterilization.

      A woman can take the Pill for other reasons, have sex, utilizing a constant period of infertility, and the church does not consider that immoral.

      A woman can get a hysterectomy for other reasons, have sex, and that is not immoral.

      Because being rendered chemically or physically sterile doesn’t inherently alter the act

      (I would argue that condoms, by creating a barrier, does alter the act).

      Sooooo….it is OK to be rendered chemically or physically sterile for other reasons (i.e., there is nothing intrinsic about being chemically or physically sterile that alters the sex act) and it is OK to intend to have sex solely for unitive and not for directly procreative purposes (which the church does allow – hence NFP for avoidance), and it is even OK to enjoy non-procreative sex without any limit if you are on the Pill for “other reasons” or have had a hysterectomy, but intentionally put these two together and you have a completely altered act?

      That makes. No. Sense.

    • Laurence Charles Ringo

      You’re KILLING IT, EW!! You are miles ahead in your common sense AND your theology! YOU should have wrote Humane Vitae, and I mean that . God bless you!

    • Laurence Charles Ringo

      According to who? YOU?

    • Laurence Charles Ringo

      Dude, do you realize how eerily creepy you sound?? Seriously,do yourself and us a favor and get out of everyone’s bedrooms! What’s wrong with you? YUCK!!!

    • Matthew

      Also, NFP is more effective than contraception, and it’s safer, and in ever instance of couples using NFP, I’ve heard that yes, it can be quite stressful, but significantly more empowering.


    • EW

      NFP is, in reality, not more effective than good contraception. That is just factually untrue, and a strange selling point for something that is supposed to be “open to life.”

      And it is wonderful if some couples find it empowering – they should use it! But many, many couples do not – they find that it nearly destroyed their marriages and traumatizes them spiritually and emotionally.

    • Guest

      Shallow and simple minded, not to mention utilitarian and relativistic.

    • Laurence Charles Ringo

      Wow, “Guest “. Your arrogant, condescending, paternalistic drivel is both sad AND pathetic. How moronic you sound. Just pitifully sad.

    • Laurence Charles Ringo

      Well put, EW!! BLESS YOU!

  • Andre B

    I dare, because for men, birth control translates into three of the most anti-woman words in existence:

    Consequence. Free. Sex.

    This is a pretty sweeping, unsupported claim to be making of men. You certainly don’t speak for me, or any of the men I know in relationships where birth control is used. In the future, perhaps you should dare less.

    This claim isn’t even accurate on the face – pregnancy is not the only possible consequence of sex, and birth control doesn’t protect from many of the other possibilities (something I would guess most men and women who use BC are well aware of). It not only makes the mistake that the all men view BC as a free pass to use a woman’s body (many of us don’t), but leaves the desires of women – casting them as desire-less creatures somehow enabling their own degrading.

    If you had framed this article in terms of ‘Catholic women’, I could begin to understand. However, you don’t, you address all women, and claim knowledge of the motivations of all men. You would have women conform to your Catholic understanding of the role of women, all the while slut shaming anyone who would decide, for example, that BC to help with medical conditions was the right choice for them.

    Again, perhaps you should dare less.

    • Matthew

      Whoa! Slut shaming? Nowhere have I done that in my article. Don’t bring that crap here.

      BC turns sex into an inward, pleasure only experience, and that’s our society’s biggest misconception about sex. So yes, it does give “Free pass” to use a woman’s body for pleasure, because with BC, sex becomes only about pleasure.

      I’m sorry, I know it’s just the most radical idea to believe that sex is meant to be between married couples, for the creation of life, and without any barriers or synthetic means in the mix. I don’t expect our entire society to change it’s mind, but I can suggest that maybe our out look on sex and BC are wrong, and challenge people to see it a different way.

      So I dare, and I will continue to do so.

      But don’t come here and start making accusations about me as a slut shammer, I won’t deal with that nonsense.

    • Andre B

      Slut shaming? Nowhere have I done that in my article.

      Nowhere? According to you, women who take BC are “sterile vessels to be used for only pleasure”. According to you, women who take BC are told (by who, exactly?) that they can’t control their sexuality, and are cheaply giving themselves (or only partially giving themselves) away. Sorry, to me that’s slut shaming. That you attempt to distance yourself by claiming that’s how “they” will view these women doesn’t change the implication. My view is reinforced by the fact that, at no point do you make any allowances for the very real medical reasons why a woman, regardless of whether (or how often) she intends to have sex, might benefit greatly from being on BC. Instead you just tell them that society will think that, simply for taking BC, they have less value, less self worth, more promiscuous, etc.

      BC turns sex into an inward, pleasure only experience, and that’s our society’s biggest misconception about sex. So yes, it does give “Free pass” to use a woman’s body for pleasure, because with BC, sex becomes only about pleasure.

      This simply isn’t true. The only definitive thing that BC changes about sex is the likelihood that the women will get pregnant. Aside from this, it doesn’t (certainly not in and of itself) change anything about whether or not sex means more or less to the couple involved. If the only reason I’m having sex with somebody is for pleasure, all BC does is affect the consequences. Removing it from the equation doesn’t add any more meanings. Conversely, for infertile couples – whether due to age, disability, etc. – I doubt you would say that their acts (similarly divorced from pregnancy) are pleasure only experiences by necessity.

      I’m sorry, I know it’s just the most radical idea to believe that sex is meant to be between married couples, for the creation of life, and without any barriers or synthetic means in the mix.

      It’s not a radical idea at all, just one not shared by all. That you didn’t seem to be addressing only Catholic women, and instead made sweeping generalizations about all men and how society views women on BC in general, is why I took exception.

      But don’t come here and start making accusations about me as a slut shammer, I won’t deal with that nonsense.

      I calls them like I see them. Maybe I’ve misunderstood your claim. Perhaps you’re unaware of how your words can be taken. I don’t think I’ve mis-characterized you, though perhaps I have and you will explain how. In light of your claim to know the hearts of all men, I wasn’t in the mood to give you the benefit of the doubt.

  • David Peters

    Matthew you are so right on! This is so on target. Thanks for being bold enough to declare it. You rock!

    • Matthew

      Thank you so much!

  • Therese

    Wow. The comments here speak to far more than the problems with contraception. So many people are clueless to the real teachings of the church and the reasons behind them, that is – a graced understanding of our relationship to God through our relationship with our spouse.
    I am a woman. I am an obstetrical nurse. I have raised six children in very difficult circumstances.
    Contraception, premarital sex, sex without openness to children, deciding ahead of time how many children fit in to one’s idea of the “perfect” life – PURELY SELF-CENTERED, NOT GOD-CENTERED.

    • Matthew

      You are absolutely right, Therese. The world’s view on sex starts with the self and the pleasure that comes from it. Completely backwards.

  • reader1968

    The concern many have is that others are trying to limit choices available to women by attempts to make contraceptives unavailable. Like anything else, contraceptives can be used for improving one’s life or abused by enabling unhealthy promiscuity. Calvinists used to argue that dancing and drinking lead to promiscuity, so both should be banned. Although there is probably some anecdotal evidence to support their claim, Catholics have not chosen to outlaw dancing or drinking.
    What most want is the choice to be able to use a product responsibly and not ban it because of the possibility of misuse, which is logic that is also shared by the NRA regarding the right to own firearms

    • Matthew

      To be fair, I don’t suggest banning it outright. Bit unrealistic. I mean, I certainly wish we lived in a society that didn’t’ use contraception. I also wish we lived in a society that as 100% Catholic. Of course I wish my religious and moral utopia existed. I also certainly agree with the Church on the moral evil of contraception, but that’s not so much what I tackle here. Everyone can choose, but I can still suggest that contraception isn’t all that great, encourage people to turn away from it, and give them reasons to do so.

    • Laurence Charles Ringo

      Are you high, Matthew? A”100 percent”catholic society would be no sane person’ s idea of a utopia! What’s wrong with you??

    • You are right about a 100% Catholic society, Lawrence. I simply echo the words of a famed Holocaust survivor: “No human race is superior; no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them” ― Elie Wiesel

    • EW

      Ireland in the 1960s was such a society, and it was a hell on earth, especially for women and children.

  • I am appalled by the sexist and misogynist tone of this post as well as pejorative reference which denigrates “desires of the flesh.” Is there something unnatural or not sacred about the “desires of the flesh.?” I would recommend that you read and meditate on the OT “Song of Songs” or “Song of Solomon” or “The Canticles” which title you prefer. The “desires of the flesh” are celebrated in the OT writings in quite an erotic fashion. Perhaps this is why this part of the Bible is rarely quoted.
    I have been married over 30 years and am 66 with two children. My son is a non-verbal, spastic quadriplegic who can do nothing for himself and my wife care for him 24/7 for the past 16 years. Now would having more children serve any purpose or would it hinder and interfere in our care of my son. You know the answer. So my options are to be chaste or use contraception. I got a vasectomy…quite full proof. Chastity for married people defeats nature, male contraception allows me to love and to live a worthwhile life of fully caring for another. Just how is my choice of contraception sexist. It is freeing in that it allows my wife and I to fully care for another human . Th Catholic position on contraception is simply wrong and fortunately dismissed as erroneous by most church going men and women. NFP, is still contraception as the purpose is to have sex without children….natural, surgical, hormonal…it’s all the same.
    That leaves me with the option of abstinence in marriage….that in itself falsifies humanity and human nature and is an unnatural as any action which inhibits intimate expression. Perhaps this is born true by the fact that a majority of studies indicate that even among Catholic priest, about 50% are not chaste at any particular time.
    Sexist? Try to convince me that the 1.5 million children who die a painful death of starvation in under developed countries are God’s will and that contraception should not be encouraged when life cannot be sustained and death is cruelly painful. Surely, God is not that cruel.
    Contraceptive choices are mutual between a man and a woman….not what one considers sexist. It frees a married couple to bring life into the world at an appropriate time in an appropriate manner. To condemn a woman’s choice of contraception as sexist is misogynist…funny you never mention a man’s choice to contracept.

    • pushpa goretti

      What a wonderful TRUTHFILLED article! Thank you very much…….. only those who have eyes are able to see the truth – and this coming from a married woman who has practised natural family planning throughout my 18 years of marriage!!!

    • pushpa goretti

      opps- i was talking to Matthew!

    • Matthew

      Thank you!

    • Ronk

      Studies also show that 50% or more of married men commit adultery. Probably studies would show that 95% or more of people have lied, cheated, stolen, coveted, etc. By your logic, God’s prohibition of all of these behaviours also “falsifies human nature and is unnatural”.
      Studies have also repeatedly shown that starvation is NOT caused by “too many” children or not enough food. It is caused by maldistribution, corruption and eveil economic and political systems. The world has much more than enough food for everyone. The rate of starvation this century has been lower than at any other time in history. In fact obesity affects far more people than under nutrition.
      Abstinence and contraception/sterilization are NOT the only two options for you as you claim. There are poerefctly morally acceptable and very effective means of avoiding contraception, without limiting sexual fulfillment (in fact enhancing it).
      Yes you are in a difficult situation having a disabled child, this may (God only knows) reduce your personal responsibility for having committed the sin of vasectomy, but it does NOT make it OK!

    • Studies show,,,,,? Just which studies do you refer to? Contemporary research indicates a significantly lower figure and in fact research indicates that 80% of marrieds feel sex with a person while your married is wrong,

      I never alluded to the fact that starvation of children in underdeveloped countries was not a result of political strife, corruption, etc…..I said that indiscriminate breeding in these areas would put children in direct paths of starvation…a horrible death. Why would anyone with compassion bring a child into this world knowing they would starve to death regardless of the cause of the absence of food supply.

      My use of contraception is not something I would expect God to forgive me for because it is not a sin and my action is to live a worthy life of unconditional love a totally disabled child. If you want to dialogue about any Biblical basis supporting the Catholic prohibition of contraception…I would love to have that discussion with you.

  • Pingback: FRIDAY EDITION |

  • niknac

    I am a life long Catholic, am unmarried and not always as chaste as I could have been. I pray about it. How many of us walk our path without a stumble or fall at times? I’ve always used condoms. I’ve never contracted an STD or gotten pregnant. I got through school and established a career in a timely manner. I am thankful for being able to support myself. Many cannot and must compromise themselves and marry predatory men. We are all sinners. There is no need to be a stupid or careless one. Am I not properly religious because I’m not a diseased wretch, pimping sailors beneath a street lamp, with a gaggle of blind, syphilitic, bairns clutching my skirts?

    I first went to Planned Parenthood at age 14, with a comrade from Girl Scouts, to help keep my courage up. They are a good organization and have helped many girls. Girls need to be informed and given choices. I support their mission. I give them money.

    • Ronk

      The reason that you have been “not properly religious” as you put it, is because you fornicated. The Church has never said that it’s OK to fornicate as long as you don’t simultaneously contracept.

      If as you imply (“‘always”) your fornications have been many, it is mainly by good luck that you have never gotten an STD (how do you know? have you been tested for them all?) or gotten pregnant (as far as you know). Or possibly you are one of the 10% of people who are naturally infertile (have you ever been tested for fertility?) or the other 10% who are marginally fertile. Condoms are only moderately effective against conception and transmission of SOME STDs (NOT including syphilis).

      There would be no woman, at least in the developed world, who “must” marry a predatory man. (Even if there were such a woman, this would not justify her and her husband contracepting.)

      Planned Parenthood is an evil organisation. Do not evr give it money. They don’t “give choices”; everyone already has a choice. PP’s only purpose is to cajole and bully vulbnerable young people into making poor and harmful choices.

    • niknac

      You judge me, Ronk. What does Jesus say about that? If you must judge someone, judge yourself.

    • Ronk

      Nonsense, of course I don’t judge you. Why on earth would you claim that?

    • Guest

      You are judging right here. Too ironic.

    • Guest

      You set up all these false choices and then draw erroneous conclusions. You simply parrot the relativism that is our culture’s god almighty.

  • WSquared

    Mr. Tyson, I get what you’re saying, and we are more or less in agreement on some if not most of the points you make, but I think that your language, at least, is problematic in some places, and can be a stumbling block if you’re not careful.

    How dare I suggest that the thing that allows women to become more than
    stay at home baby machines could in actuality be a tool used to oppress

    So is your implication that the Church expects women to be stay-at-home baby machines, and to not want to be more than that, then, or even that this is the best way to live the Church’s teaching? I would suggest that the Church’s teaching already views women– and enables women to be– more than stay-at-home baby machines.

    One thing that really is missing from all these discussions in Catholic circles is pretty much any realization that being a “stay-at-home baby machine” is not what the Catholic Church teaches, regardless of whether a woman chooses to stay home or not, and regardless of the size of her family. And even a woman who does choose to stay at home and has a large family is more than just some “baby machine.” The minute you say that the pill is “the thing that allows women to become more than a stay-at-home baby machine”,” you already capitulate to the usual byline that this is what the pill enables. I don’t know if this is what you meant to imply or not, but more careful attention to the way you articulate your points is needed.

    Now, a stay-at-home mother with a large family fits well within the Church’s teaching on human sexuality. But so does a working mother with a family not as large (like St. Gianna Beretta Molla. Inference: working will not bar a woman from canonized sainthood, so it is simply not true that “the only truly good and holy wives and mothers stay at home.” And why are we presuming that the vocation of motherhood should be understood exclusively biologically, when that’s not what the Catholic Church teaches? Also, how does a woman live all that God gives her in a holy and self-giving way? And yes, that includes her work, not just her family). Also fitting within the Church’s teaching is a working mother with a large family (like Dr. Elizabeth Anscombe had seven children, was a professor at Cambridge, and an expert on Wittgenstein. Inference: having a large family won’t bar a woman from academic brilliance). Why is this rather expansive range of right ways to obediently follow the Church’s teaching with everything that we have been given so difficult for so many Catholics to imagine or understand?

    The point is not just, simply, or merely that the Church says “no” to contraception, and/or also that the Church warns of the dangers of separating sex from procreation, but she is also saying that a woman does not need contraception to be “more than a stay-at-home baby machine.” She does not need contraception to balance work and family. Cardinal Ratzinger says it far better than I can in his discussion on how the Church’s respect and reverence for celibacy and virginity challenge any such reduction of a woman’s destiny to biology, and I think reading what he writes in conjunction with “Humanae Vitae” is in order. And yet, enough Catholics seem completely unaware of “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration between Men and Women in the Church and in the World,” or John Paul II’s “Mulieris Dignitatem” and his “Letter to Women,” and don’t make that connection. Why?

    respecting and protecting your sexuality and fertility and practicing
    chastity until you enter into the marriage union with your spouse.

    The operative word that I take issue with is “until.” Is the extent to which you understand “chastity” merely “saving yourself for marriage,” whereby the person in question waits, holding on white-knuckled, until it’s “go time”? I really hope that that’s not what you mean (comments further down would suggest not, but I thought I’d raise the point, anyway, since this assumption is pretty common). Chastity is to be practiced in marriage, also, and not just outside of it. Lust is still a disorder and a sin, regardless of whether one is married or unmarried: if there’s lust in a marriage, where both men and women can hurt each other through objectification, then that’s still not “safe sex,” no matter which way we want to cut it. Chastity is the consistent, coherent integration of one’s sexuality within one’s person. It is not sublimation or repression, but the kind of detachment and balance through right order that allows for the recognition of sex as a gift, whereby it is joyfully partaken of as a gift.

    • Matthew

      I was being facetious, a bit satirical, with the stay at home baby machine point. Of course women can be more than stay at home moms, but from the other side, the charge is often that we are against contraception precisely because they think we think women should only stay at home and pop out babies. Make sense?

      This article works best in the realm of contraception and unmarried women, and how the former is sold as a means of liberation and control over the latter’s own sex lives. I say it isn’t. I say true control comes with chastity and abstinence, mastering your sexuality, and safeguarding your fertility, rather than disposing it in order to have a more “empowered” sex life.

      Now, a blog on contraception use and chastity within married couples, that’s a whole other blog in itself.

    • Matthew

      At the same time, I think it can be argued that there are (some) different reasons for practicing chastity before marriage than within marriage.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    My question is : why are catholics forever obsessing about what going on in someone else’s bedroom? Frankly, it’s twisted, sick, and more than a little bizarre. What galls me is that according to your sadistic teaching, even if a woman absolutely had to have an abortion in order to save her life, you’d rather she DIE than do so! Didn’t you have a case like that in Denver a couple of years back? So no, Matthew, you’re spouting dangerous nonsense, and you wonder why even catholic women think it’s a crock? Grow up, dude.

    • WSquared

      even if a woman absolutely had to have an abortion in order to save her life, you’d rather she DIE than do so!

      That’s not what the Church teaches, Laurence. The Church teaches that we are to do our utmost to save both lives. But if, say, the baby dies as a result of much-needed surgery– like dealing with a tubal pregnancy or a malignant tumor, then that is permissible. The point is that the illness is seen as the problem (and is treated), not the unborn child.

      The question we should be asking is whether abortions and contraception are over-prescribed, and whether they’re actually band-aid solutions. Why do we have such faith in science, supposedly, and yet no faith that almighty science can actually be used to come up with more creative solutions that respect the dignity of human life, and can save both mother and child? Why also do we assume that a pregnancy at the “wrong” time is “the end of the world”? Why do we assume that sexuality is not meant to be rightly ordered, so as not to hurt others?

      Moreover, what about how Scripture says: “he who saves his life will lose it, he who loses his life will save it”? How, then, does a Christian live with everything that God has given him, such that–given any belief in life eternal qua the life of eternity– he is not afraid to die? Also, Christ died on the Cross. Are we to presume that the servant is higher than his master? Also, we’re all going to die sometime. Is it better, from the Christian perspective, to have killed a human life so that one can live according to one’s convenience, or to have laid down one’s life for someone else? Catholics refer to “dying to self,” which is a daily decision. Also, the only way in which anyone can ultimately die for Christ is by making the decision on a daily basis to live for Him. Unpacks “I am crucified with Christ! It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me!” quite a bit, doesn’t it?

      My question is : why are catholics forever obsessing about what going on in someone else’s bedroom?

      We don’t. Other people keep bringing their bedrooms into the public square, and in so far as it comprises any public discussion or consequences for a goodly number of people, including ourselves, we have a right to respond– especially if we think that the Church provides the better outlook, and at the very least if enough people keep misrepresenting what the Magisterium actually teaches. The latter at least forces us to respond: non-Catholics and non-practicing, self-proclaimed Catholics don’t get to presume to define what Catholics believe. Others may not misrepresent what we believe in public and then demand that we shut up.

      Also, if other people in general get to offer their two cents in the marketplace of ideas, then so do we. The last time I checked, it’s a free country. The Pope and our bishops merely invite us laypeople to consider carefully what we’re being offered in that regard. We can take or leave their advice as we please, but we should be aware of what we’re choosing. Choices, after all, involve consequences, and God loves us unconditionally, but doesn’t force us to love Him. Disregarding the consequence of choice may free us from inconvenience in the short term, but it will not free us or excuse us from God’s judgment– not just at the end of our lives, but right now (we don’t speak of unworthy receiving of the Eucharist as “eating and drinking judgment on ourselves” for nothing, which is also straight out of Scripture). Choice would also mean that we’ve been given options to be weighed; it is hardly impossible or implausible that we would reasonably conclude that the Catholic Church offers the most comprehensive choice for addressing the human person holistically.

      Moreover, Catholic teaching on human sexuality is neither pornographic nor puritanical. Too bad enough Christians and non-believers insist on being stuck in that rut of extremes. We don’t.

    • Matthew

      Here! Here!

    • reader1968

      The church does much more than merely say it has a better outlook. It says all contraception is a grave evil. That is being on the extreme.

    • EW

      The church teaches an abortion can only be a side effect of a surgery or treatment of something else to save a woman’s life.

      A life threatening pregnancy in itself cannot be treated. Many moral theologians consider the treatment of a septic miscarriage to be immoral until the fetus’s heart stops, or consider the only acceptable treatment of a tubal pregnancy to be cutting out the infected tube (double affect), rather than flushing out the embryo with a drug (which would be a direct abortion, even though it avoids maiming the woman.)

      That is pretty extreme. And not good for women.

    • EW

      You ask why science can’t always save mother and baby? Wow, I’m glad your not my doctor. Um, I think if “science” could find a way to do so it would. But doctors aren’t miracle workers, and sometimes they have to make difficult choices, in real reality. And sometimes that choice is between a woman’s life and a fetus with no chance of survival.

      When Jesus was confronted with the question of whether or not it was licit to break the Sabbath Law to help someone in need, he did not say “Hey! I’m going to die on the cross so you are all expected to die to keep the law!” No, he said (to paraphrase) that the Law was made for man, not man for the Law. Because he was God, compassionate and reasonable.

      When a woman needs an abortion to save her life, of a non-viable fetus that has no chance at life itself, and she is denied it because of “double effect”, she is not sacrificing her life for love or for God or for the Gospel. She is sacrificing it for the law, heck, for something that isn’t even part of the law (as “the Law” of the OT explicitly did not treat a fetus as a person), but for the hairsplitting of pagan philosophical concepts applied to moral theology. This is absolute barbarism, and the examples of human rights abuse of women in countries like El Salvador and Ireland bear it out. The pharisees could not have been less humane.

      And I love how, in your words, letting a mother have a right to her own life is now “for her convenience?” Holy ****. And you are supposedly the ones that are “Pro-Life” and for “Real Women’s Liberation.”

      And yet you wonder why women think there is war being waged on them, and refuse the supposed “real liberation” you are offering.

      We are not as stupid as you think we are.

    • Ronk

      It seems to me that it is those who constantly promote contraception and the other aspects of the “Culture of Death” which holds sway over Government and the media in most western countries, who are obsessed with what is going on in other people’s bedrooms. Catholics are the most numerous among those who do NOT share this obsession, and are constantly pilloried for failing to join in the celebration of the absolute goodness of contraception, abortion, fornication, sodomy, prostitiution, pornography and the rest of the agenda.

    • Laurence Charles Ringo

      I get what you’re saying, “Ronk”, as far as it goes, but even in the offer of contraceptives, condoms and the like, the operative word here is still choice. No matter how much you and I may hate the choices of others, ultimately their choice is between them and their God, period.As for catholics being constantly pilloried for not choosing to celebrate sin, dial it back a notch, my friend; catholics don’t have a monopoly on the opprobrium of the ungodly/unsaved world.ALL of Almighty God’s children are EXPECTED to experience scorn, mockery, and ridicule, AND persecution for upholding His standards.So…YOU keep living Christ in the midst, as it were, and Our Father will deal with the rest.May you be blessed IN CHRIST!

    • Ronk

      I am not, and the Catholic Church is certainly not, disputing that any person’s decision to contracept or commit any other sin is a matter of individual choice. (In fact others frequently pillory the Church for insisting that each individual DOES have a choice.) However, as our Lord commands us in Holy Scripture, each and every Catholic MUST charitably and trthfully point out whenever anyone is making a choice which is bad and harmful.
      For its first 1900 years of existence the Catholic Church made very few mentions of contraception in its official statements, because almost everybody inside and outside the Church agreed that contraception was a grave evil. From 1930 onwards, OTHER people, States and institutions outside the Church have invented and strongly promoted (and in recent years even enforced by law) the novel idea that contraception is morally indifferent or even morally GOOD! When the Church rightly refuses to go along with this lie, she is bizarrely accused of being “obsessed” with contraception!

    • Ronk

      To the best of my knowledge, there never has been, and medically speaking never possibly could be, a situation where supposedly ” a woman absolutely had to have an abortion in order to save her life”. This is a complete strawman.

    • Laurence Charles Ringo

      You ought to be old enough to have heard of an ectopic pregnancy, which CANNOT be carried to term and can kill the mother.Grow up.

    • Guest

      Treatments include incising the diseased part of the tube if that is where the baby is gestating. That is not direct abortion. Educate yourself.

    • Laurence Charles Ringo

      An ectopic pregnancy is still a pregnancy; since when is it called a disease? The baby is simply in the wrong place. Educate YOURSELF.

    • Guest

      I never called a baby the disease. Treating a diseased tube where the baby is gestating is the disease. Not the baby but the tube. Educated yourself in medicine and moral theology.

      What I wrote is traditional Catholic moral theology.

    • EW

      But it is far less risky for the woman to eliminate the embryo (its an embryo, not a baby – haven’t you ever seen an 8 week ultrasound?) before the tube becomes diseased, which is a direct abortion. Waiting for the tube to become diseased can have serious health consequences for the woman.

    • Laurence Charles Ringo

      Fine,”Guest”, but your unwarranted assumption is the fuel for this debate; I’ll rephrase the question:where is it written that ALL ectopic pregnancies are the result of some as-yet unamed(at least by you) disease? Many factors can account for these pregnancies, including improper sperm/egg development, I.e.formation in a HEALTHY fallopian tube, so…I may not be a medical expert, but I’m not ignorant, so don’t try to insult my intelligence.

    • EW

      The best treatment, which preserves a woman’s fertility and avoids maiming her or putting her life at risk with surgery, is flushing the embryo out with a drug, which is a direct abortion.

      And there are other circumstances in which pregnancy can directly threaten a woman’s life.

    • Guest

      Things like MTX have not been declared illicit in such cases by the Church. All medical procedures must be morally licit. We are not barbarians that act out of convenience with no regard to truth.

      So, MTX may be licit but the point is the treatment must be used to treat authentic pathology not to kill a baby.

    • EW

      Are you serious?

  • james

    It seems that your post conspicuously leaves out half the equation on sexism. What makes you think that imperfect and seemingly one sided contraception isn’t wanted for an obvious reason ? Woman enjoy consensual sex as much as men and the average age for marriage in the US is 27 for women and 29 for men. Now, in a perfect Catholic world both would be virgins but we know that is far off the mark. If you want to explore fornication, well, that’s a whole different topic that affects both genders from youth to old age.

    • fredx2

      And women who engage in a lot of sex before marriage are more unhappy. Look at the rising rates of depression among women who hook up.

    • reader1968

      Many women and men do use sex as a feel good drug to temporarily escape. And that is indeed unhealthy. And contraception can be used to help enable this pattern. But contraception itself can be a means of maintaining a healthy marital relationship by reducing the chance of an unintentional pregnancy, just like NFP users.

    • Guest

      It is not the same at all. One suppresses fertility and deforms the act. The other does no such thing.

    • EW

      There is a huge difference between “hooking up” and a mature sexual relationship between two young adults who are moving towards marriage, and merely putting it off while they finish school and get their careers started (two things which will exponentially increase their success at marriage down the road).

      There have always been women who have been “used” by men sexually. This is nothing new, nor is it caused by contraception. Maybe the focus, instead of being on contraception, should be on teaching young people to treat each other and themselves as persons with dignity.

  • john654

    “Contraception is oppression, and as the Catholic faithful it should be in our prayers every day that women who have been deceived by the false promises liberation will break the bonds of sexual tyranny and find true freedom within the Church”. HOPE FOR THE WORLD!

  • Bill S

    Where contraception stifles women, the Church elevates them.

    This statement does not pass the straight face test. Contraception does not stifle women. It didn’t stifle my wife. And I know many other women who have lived life their way thanks to contraception. It amazes me how Catholics try so hard to make their popes right and the rest of the world wrong on an issue such as this.

    This position on contraception is a harmful one. It is largely ignored even by Catholics, as well it should be.

    • fredx2

      And yet, women are more unhappy than they have ever been. The largest longitudinal study shows this.

      Google “women are more unhappy than ever”

      Don’t you find it interesting that women were happier before Contraception came around?

    • Bill S

      From the internet:

      The standard assumption is that women’s lives have dramatically improved over the last 50 years. They have considerably more personal freedom; and opportunities for education and employment have been transformed. As a result they have much greater financial independence, which has given them more power to shape their lives.

      That is true regardless of whether they are more happy or not. Reasons why people are happy or not involve lots of variables. That is not the point I was making.

    • reader1968

      And you blame this on contraception? Might as well blame clothing styles or cell phones too.

    • Matthew

      Harmful? Because I encourage women to exercise true control over their bodies and sex lives that doesn’t involve a synthetic means of infertility? Because I encourage husband and wife to come together fully without any barriers or caution tape? Because I suggest abstinence is best? Because there are natural methods that are safer, more effective, and bring married couples closer together? (I didn’t get into that one, but it’s true.)

      Also, “largely ignored even by Catholics” doesn’t negate Church teaching.

    • Bill S

      Because I encourage husband and wife to come together fully without any barriers or caution tape?

      Your stand on this is ideologically driven. I can only speak from my own experience over 38 years of marriage. We wanted two kids, we planned for two kids, we had two kids, raised and educated them and now they are adults. Your comment about barriers and caution tape is nonsensical.

    • reader1968

      Harmful for trying to impose a feeling of guilt on a couple who is trying to plan their family size. Contraception is not 100% effective, so a couple can be open to life in the same manner as couples who rely on NFP.

    • EW

      Google “Caelum et Terra NFP” or “Women in Theology NFP” for some very honest, and very sad, conversations that highlight how “safe and “effective” NFP is, and how it “brings couples closer together.” Not.

      NFP is excellent if it is freely chosen because it is what works best for a couple. We’ve used both contraception and NFP at different points our marriage, and both worked well and were the right choice for a particular time in our lives. But NFP is not best for everyone, or even best all the time. For many couples it is devastating on their marriage in a way that contraception is not.

      And yes, a complete lack of reception by the Sensum Fidei can eventually negate a church teaching. Humanae Vitae, though taught through the ordinary magisterium, is not infallible.

      There is so much more to the Catholic Church than the teaching on birth control.

    • Matthew

      Pope Francis has spoken at length about how Sensus Fidelium has nothing to do with majority opinion. It does not negate Church teaching. If that’s how the Church worked, we’d be Protestant.

    • EW

      You sound like Ricki Lake in that awful “Business of Being Born” video.

      So are epidurals, hospital births, ultrasounds, and all the other “synthetic” things modern women do with and to their bodies to manage their baby making also not “true control”?

      Why is something not “true control” just because it is synthetic? Women use synthetic means all the time to manage other aspects of their reproductive lives, not just their fertility. (Of course the Midwife and Homebirth crowd calls us “disempowered” for that too. Whatever, I’ve had one epidural birth and one natural labor with no medication. The latter was horrific. Never again. There was nothing empowering about that.)

      Nor is their anything empowering about not using the best method of birth control for your health and situation. For some women that is going to be NFP. For some its not. Being “natural” or “synthetic” is irrelevant.

  • Ciarán Ó Coigligh

    Thank you, Matthew, for this fine article which states the reality so many ignore at their peril.