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Pope Piux XI

Pop quiz:

Which great Catholic thinkers of the past said the following?

  1. “The abandonment of the reproductive function is the common feature of all perversions. We actually describe a sexual activity as perverse if it has given up the aim of reproduction and pursues the attainment of pleasure as an aim independent of it. So, as you will see, the breach and turning point in the development of sexual life lies in becoming subordinate to the purpose of reproduction.  Everything that happens before this turn of events and equally everything that disregards it and that aims solely at obtaining pleasure is given the uncomplimentary name of ‘perverse’ and as such is proscribed.”
  2. Artificial methods [of contraception] are like putting a premium on vice. They make men and women reckless … Nature is relentless and will have full revenge for any such violation of her laws. Moral results can only be produced by moral restraints. All other restraints defeat the very purpose for which they are intended. If artificial [birth control] methods become the order of the day, nothing but moral degradation can be the result. A society that has already become enervated through a variety of causes will still become further enervated by the adoption of artificial [birth control] methods … As it is, man has sufficiently degraded women for his lust, and artificial [birth control] methods, no matter how well-meaning the advocates may be, will still further degrade her.

Are they from some commentary on Humanae Vitae? Maybe something from St. John Paul II? Or the Great Benedict XVI? Could it have maybe been someone earlier? Pius XI in Casti Connubii, perhaps?

We tend to forget that it was only a very short time ago, in cultural terms, that the Catholic Church became the last man standing against artificial contraception. And even if we know about the general religious objection to it before the Great Asteroid hit Western Civilization, we all tend to assume that it was only the “conservative” elites of society – with their unfortunate tendency to want to oppress and lord it over everyone else, who might have objected.

Certainly it is true that the Catholic Church was one of Margaret Sanger’s principle opponents, as it is true that Mrs. Sanger had her own plans for Catholics. But at the time she was starting her birth control revolution, the Church was not alone. It is certainly interesting, then, that long before the Sexual Revolution, there were others who were sounding a caution about the separation in sexual relations from its dual, built-in purposes.

For various reasons, it might be relevant right now in the US that the objection to contraception is, or was, not merely some obscure and inexplicable Catholic shibboleth.

Oh, I forgot to tell you the answers to the quiz.

  1. “The Sexual Life of Human Beings.” The Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, James Strachey (editor), Volume 16, pages 303 to 319.
  2. The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volumes 2 and 4. Published by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.