By Ryan Harkins, LC
In this heated debate over the use of contraceptives in general, I think it’s important to discover the real issue at hand: beyond the $30 a month it costs to have regular contraceptives, beyond the “rights” for women to do as they wish with their bodies, and even beyond breaking the system with new medical aid that frees women’s natural “suppression” of being pregnant every time they engage in the sexual act.
The issue here is not about any of that, but rather about the true meaning of both love and the engagement in the conjugal act. For is this not what the whole debate is about?
Two people in love who want to express that love in the highest degree through a bodily union with one another, but at the same time disregard a fundamental element of a new life being born. This is the “glory” of contraceptives: the ability to prevent that from happening.
It is here where it becomes so crucial to see more clearly who the human person is. There have been many definitions given but the best one I’ve seen that conforms to man’s experience would be the following: A being with the capacity to know and love freely, called to a communion of other persons through a sincere gift of himself.
In this definition we not only see what the person can do and is called to, but we also see what true love really is: a sincere giving of oneself to another. In the conjugal act this is what is happening, and this is what is so misunderstood.
When “boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy loves girl,” he naturally wants to express that love with a total giving of his self to her and she likewise to him in the same way. It is a mutual self-giving where both agree to surrender themselves to the other. The driving force behind all of this is the love they have for one another. But love cannot be halfway, for if it is then it is not love.
When contraceptives are in play, love as expressed in sexual union is watered down to being only a satisfaction of one’s sexual urge, which becomes a sort of use of the other, not as a person with infinite value as expressed by bodily union, but as a thing just like any other with no intrinsic value at all. To use something is not love. Love is giving and where there is a block between that free, total, faithful, and fruitful self-giving, there is no love.
No one wants to ever be lied to. We want the truth, and we want it to be as honest and sincere as possible. The conjugal act with contraceptives amounts to a lie, because one is saying, hopefully with words, but especially with the body, that “I love you and want to give my whole person to you in love,” but in reality is holding something so wonderful and natural back: the beautiful mysterious miracle of procreation.
The essence of love within this act overflows into another life, another person with infinite value and worth.
Some may say that this is too hard; that it’s impossible to withhold these bodily aches and longings of “fulfillment” without preventing possible “birth consequences”. It may be difficult, but it is not impossible.
It is possible because God made us, man and woman, to love one another. Our natural ability to love freely, faithfully, totally, and fruitfully is a sign of our being made in the Creator’s image. True love is, therefore, the hallmark of human dignity.