The Neomalthusian current has inculcated public opinion with the idea that contraception is the same thing as responsible procreation or birth control. Such an identification proceeds from a scandalous abuse of language.
a) The Church considers responsible paternity and maternity written in God's design. The Church is favorable toward this, and that is why she encourages natural methods of birth regulation. But the Church rejects the artificial means called contraception. Why?
First of all, because -- without envisaging here the demographic consequences -- contraception is always utilized to the detriment of one or the other spouse: sometimes the men (e.g. vasectomy); more often the women (hormone drugs, the IUD, sterilization). Besides, we are forced to assert that in this regard, in the European community, cows are better protected than women against hormonal drugs.
And so, in consequence, contraception, artificial as it is, drives true freedom from the field of human sexuality. But human sexuality is not purely instinctive; it is responsible and controllable.
b) The spouses' determination to avoid procreation by way of contraception, and for even greater reason by sterilization, rests on an implicit dialogue very easy to reconstitute. It goes this way: The husband says to his wife, always the principal one concerned: "My dear, I love you, but not as you are, that is, fertile. I love you on condition that you be infertile, even sterile. You must model yourself according to my desires so that I can take you when I wish." It is actually against this kind of latent [male] understanding that women are beginning to rise up.1
c) More briefly, the Church advises couples that they respect the essential link between sexuality and love. This bond supposes duration, that is, mutual involvement and fidelity. Procreation is inscribed in the framework of this mutual project of conjugal life.
What many have difficulty in understanding is that the Church wants to save freedom as a constitutive dimension of human life. This liberty cannot be reduced to the absence of physical or moral restraints; it is not an abandonment to the egotistical impulses of unbridled instinct. Freedom is the ability to consent to values (like good or justice) which reason can discover: it is the capacity to open oneself to another, to love.
The least we can expect of people is to acknowledge that the Church's position is coherent and that it takes man's freedom and responsibility seriously, as well as the corporeal dimension of human love.
1 Cf. A-M de Vilaine, L. Gavarini, M. Le Coadic (eds.), Maternité en mouvement. Les femmes, la reproduction et les hommes de science (Montreal: Saint-Martin, 1986).
CBCP PASTORAL LETTER: "LOVE IS LIFE" (1990)