(Third in a four-part series) While perhaps surprising to some scientists, these data from the last two articles (Contraception: Pro-Life\’s Achilles Heel and Contraception Increases Rates of Divorce, Suicide, and Sexual Dysfunction) wouldn’t have surprised John Paul II, whose Theology of the Body (TOB) offers a reading of nature in profound harmony with this evidence. Basing itself on a deep biblical anthropology of the creation story of Adam and Eve, it finds that in the plan inscribed in nature, the bond between husband and wife is intimately associated with the force that unites a mother (and father) with her child.
Indeed the intimate connection between these two forces we’ll call spousal love and procreativity is so tight as to not only be inseparable morally (as in, we shouldn’t separate them), but inseparable actually (as in, we are incapable of separating them as a matter of fact). As such, this “fact of life” exerts effects on users independently of any preconceived moral thoughts they may or may not have about contraception. A bit like taking the wrong medicine, it will have its effects whether a person believes in medicine or not.
This intimate bond between the spousal and procreative dimensions of the human being is one way to understand the Scriptures, in that for the two to become one flesh, deeply expressed therein is the simultaneity of not only the two separate bodies uniting (two become one in uniting), but also of the two becoming a third (two become one who is a third), and both forces inseparably working together. What creates, also unites, and this according to the express wish of God. Why ought it be this way?
All of this is so because in the Blessed Trinity, each of the Three Divine Persons are so intimately related to each other that the relation between them is their very Person. Another way to say this is that nothing proper to the Divine Persons is excluded from their intimate reciprocal sharing, except what is distinct to each Person. So the Father for instance shares with His Divine Son all of His properties and attributes except His being Father, and so on. This is radical and complete personal self-giving.
The TOB gives the biblical texts on creation quite a radical context: it isn’t only in his individual being that man is made “in Our image” (cf. Gen. 1:26), by virtue of having a rational soul, but this Divine image extends also to the spousal relations between man and woman, which are called in turn to a complete self-giving, indeed one that is so complete as to be a genuine exchange, sharing, or interpenetration of persons. Only in this way can it be truly said that the marriage relationship is a fully satisfying icon of the love expressed in the Blessed Trinity, as well as one that is fully worthy of men and women in their elevated dignity. That is why St. Paul says not only that the man is to love his wife as Christ loves the Church, giving His very Person, but also that all parenthood on earth is patterned (“named”; Eph. 3:15) after the love of God the Father for His Son.
Trinitarian love is faithful and permanent, and is also inherently life-giving, since the love between the Father and the Son is itself a Person, the Holy Spirit, and the Father is said to “eternally beget” the Son. Therefore, since the conjugal relationship is as we have seen called to withhold nothing and reserve nothing to itself that it is called to give – even including one’s very person in all its powers – how ought we to look at a contracepted act of intercourse? Can it really be said that an act of intercourse in which one’s procreative powers are neutralized, so that all is shared except one’s fertility, satisfies this Trinitarian standard apparently written into conjugal relations? Can an act of contracepted intercourse be said to share everything without reservation?
“What God has joined together, no man must divide.” We can view this unity between the love-making and life-giving properties of conjugal love like a knot that not only shouldn’t but cannot be untied. Ought it be any surprise at all then that when man thinks he has successfully untied the knot through contraceptive technology, with great surprise finds only that what he has neutralized is solely the knot’s visible physical expression, and this only in part (a conception) – like skimming off the blossom of a flower — while the intra-psychic, existential, less visible procreative roots remain? These remain frustrated in the soul of the woman, frustrated I say, ever seeking genuine expression, and it is this frustration that explains not only the increased tendency for the contraceptive-using woman to more frequently than other women choose abortion, but also the manifest psychosocial problems many women using contraceptives reportedly experience, as we have seen.
So, in the woman, who St. Paul says “will be saved by child-bearing” (i.e., will only find genuine happiness and fulfillment in harmony with her whole being including her maternal potential), we find the open book revealing in more depth, in her actual experience (if we care to look), the original plan of God for love and life.
© 2013. Dominic M. Pedulla, MD. All Rights Reserved.