Clarify on Contraception
Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, March 6, 2018
Dear Fr. Jenkins,
You are, no doubt, aware that many students are now calling upon the University to provide them with simple contraceptives, even if they are not insured through Notre Dame. Their demands logically follow from your recent statement, which incorrectly justified the provision of a grave moral evil on the basis of personal choice. These groups rightly argue if those covered by Notre Dame’s insurance have the ability to make their own choices about contraception, why cannot all students make this same choice?
Your decision blurred very clear lines of Catholic teaching and has made it almost impossible to correctly communicate the Church’s authoritative position on this serious issue. On this campus, many students each year make the laudable decision to enter the Catholic Church. Before receiving the Sacraments, these catechumens go through a period of preparation, during which they learn Catholic morality, including the rejection of the grave moral evil of contraception. Just as this teaching is difficult for many Catholics to accept, it is equally difficult for catechumens to receive, and it is especially challenging when prominent Catholic figures of authority, such as yourself, have cast significant doubt upon the infallible teaching of the Catholic Church.
These catechumens and, indeed, all students at Notre Dame need you to be a firm, shining example of the goodness, truth and beauty of Church teaching and lead them to the fullness of life with Christ.
The Church’s rejection of contraception is rooted in her teaching on the beauty of human sexuality and conjugal love. Intercourse is to be practiced only within the confines of the indissoluble bond of marriage, where it is an outgrowth of the total, free, faithful and fruitful love promised in the marriage vows. In accord with the Church, Du Lac, which every student agreed to obey when coming to Notre Dame, reiterates this teaching and calls unmarried students to chastity by total abstinence and married students to chastity within marriage.
The Church bans contraception because it distorts the marital act, rendering it neither total nor fruitful, and weakens the institution of marriage by increasing the prevalence of premarital intercourse and infidelity.
Couples using contraception do not totally give themselves, as they withhold their fertility from each other. In this way, contraception distorts the purpose and authenticity of intercourse, which signifies the complete gift of self between a couple. In addition, the very point of contraception is to sterilize the marital act, thus preventing the love from becoming fruitful and bearing new life. As Pope Saint John Paul II declared in Gratissimam Sane, “The two dimensions of conjugal union, the unitive and the procreative, cannot be artificially separated without damaging the deepest truth of the conjugal act itself.”
This severance of total self-gift and procreation from intercourse has led to the hookup culture, where fleeting sexual encounters are sought to maximize personal pleasure with no obligation of fidelity. Contraception thwarts the natural ends of sex, thus diminishing the inherent obligations and consequences of the act. Therefore, many see little reason to abstain until marriage.
With this mindset, women especially, far from being liberated and respected, are treated as objects for pleasure to be used and discarded without due consideration for their dignity. As Pope Paul VI correctly predicted when stating the Church’s opposition to contraception in Humanae Vitae, “a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.”
Although the teaching on contraception may be difficult to accept, especially in the modern world, it is definitively settled and offers the truth about human nature and the path to salvation with Christ. Catholic teaching on sexuality is not merely a restriction, but it is an invitation to genuine freedom and full humanity. We are called to reserve intercourse for marriage where, unhindered by contraception, it is the most complete expression of the total love between the spouses and an opportunity to share in the life-generating power of God.
The students and faculty on this campus deserve a clear statement on this issue and support for living out this teaching from their University. Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, authoritatively declared, “I wish to remind all the faithful of the diocese, including the faithful who are part of the Notre Dame community, of the Church’s definitive teaching that ‘every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible is intrinsically evil.’”
As the head of the nation’s most prominent Catholic university, you are called to guide those students entrusted to your care. As a priest, your primary responsibility is to lead others, especially your students and faculty, to Christ. You have failed in this duty by opening the door to sin and sowing confusion among the student body. As Pope Paul VI warned those in favor of contraception, “let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings — and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation — need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law.”
I hope you will consider clarifying the truth of the Lord you serve on this grave moral evil of contraception because many souls are in danger as a result of your actions. I humbly beg you to courageously proclaim the true teachings of your Holy Mother the Church.
class of 2016
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.