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Orthodoxy and Sexuality

Today’s contraception culture strikes at the heart of the God-designed unity of pleasure and responsibility, opting to embrace pleasure while avoiding the responsibility of childbearing and calling it “family planning.” Such planned parenthood and family planning is in reality planned barrenhood and family banning, and as such has been vigorously forbidden by the Holy Fathers throughout the history of the Church. St. Paul teaches that married women find their salvation in and through childbearing. ~Fr. Josiah Trenham (Antiochian Orthodox)

All of Fr. Josiah’s article is well worth reading, and this remark about contraception is not necessarily the most important part of the article. In a sense, however, it may be the most important, as contraception is one aspect of abusing human sexuality that can seem the least obviously perverse. Yet it betrays a mentality in which shirking a sacred duty in life (which is what contraception aims to achieve and does achieve) is seen as a reasonable, perhaps even as a responsible thing to do. It likely fosters an attitude towards bearing children that imagines children as “lifestyle choices” or vehicles for self-fulfillment, rather than as part of the sacred trust and obligation of married life. It surely achieves only two things: indulging the will of the flesh, and avoiding responsibility for that indulgence.

Fr. Josiah’s article would be worthwhile at any time, but it seems especially timely given the current mini-controversy over the FDA non-approval of the so-called “morning after pill” and today’s article by prominent pro-life libertarian, Steve Chapman in The Chicago Tribune. Mr. Chapman makes a cogent argument that the drug in question apparently does not prevent the implantation of a fertilised egg, and thus is not what one would call an abortifacient, but is indeed by and large a form of contraception.

Mr. Chapman invites us to rejoice at the prospect of this (according to him, the pill won’t effectively cause abortions, and will possibly help prevent some from taking place), and seems to regret the success of pro-life activists who have expended their energy successfully fighting its approval. It may be, as Mr. Chapman has it, that approving this drug could serve to prevent many “unwanted pregnancies,” and so prevent future abortions that will otherwise take place. If so, we might agree that this is a desirable and good result as far as it goes. But it does beg the question of what it means to be pro-life, if avowedly principled ‘pro-lifers’ can find any satisfaction in the existence of a drug whose sole purpose is to stymy procreation, which is one of essential purposes given by God to most men and women on earth. Contraception is surely a serious social evil, perhaps all the more serious because it is not taken all that seriously, and especially as it works to create a mentality that permits and encourages the sort of sexual and social anarchy of which abortion is the most gruesome consequence.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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