Shortly after I turned 12, my family and I were living in McDonough, GA. This is a city about an hour south of Atlanta. McDonough is growing now, but it was fairly small when we lived there. My dentist, for instance, also played guitar at our parish (St. James the Less).
My dentist was a nice, and, as best I can remember, a fairly good Catholic. Still, I can remember when he and his wife became the source of some parish gossip. They had been having trouble conceiving, and they really wanted a kid. So, apparently, they turned to fertility drugs. This caused quite a scandal in the parish. Quite a number of our fellow parishioners began to look down on the couple, because they used artificial means to conceive a child. This scandal need not have occurred.
In 2005 I wrote a letter to then-Bishop Joseph E. Kurtz of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN (I was living in Chattanooga by then). In this letter I asked Bishop Kurtz (now Archbishop Kurtz of the Archdiocese of Louisville, and my provincial) why it is that the Catholic Church accepts the use of fertility drugs, but forbids the use of artificial contraceptives. I knew this was the case, but I had never really been given a satisfactory explanation. His Excellency’s response showed why my dentist and his wife’s use of fertility drugs need not have caused any scandal.
It is true that both fertility drugs and artificial contraceptives are…well…artificial. It, therefore, seems reasonable to assume both would be forbidden by the Church. Such an assumption, I have long sense come to understand, is fundamentally flawed. It is based off the assumption that artificial contraceptives are forbidden primarily because they are artificial. This is not really the case.
Though God has given us a natural means to avoid the conception of children (with grave reason), artificial contraceptives are forbidden primarily because of their other consequence. That is, artificial contraceptives make man a slave to science. Artificial contraceptives give us the appearance of freedom. It “frees” us from the burdens of parenthood. Artificial contraceptives, however, result in enslavement, not freedom.
It gives man the illusion of control over the creation of life. It demeans human life, turning it into a commodity and burden, instead of a gift. Further, contraceptives are too tempting for governments. They may be tempted to do just as the United States government has done.
Governments tend towards tyranny. They oversee the making and enforcing of laws in just about every facet of life. This naturally leads to governments feeling and acting as if they actually do, or should, control human life from conception to death. Actually, many governments attempt to control conception itself.
The HHS Mandate on contraceptives is just one more step by the US government to control contraception. The government doesn’t force women to use contraceptives, because it can not yet enforce it. But it certainly has no problem stepping on the consciences of employers, and force them to pay for contraceptive insurance! We should have seen this coming. For decades public schools have been encouraging our teens to have has much sex as they wish, so long as they use contraceptives.
One might ask why a government would wish to attempt to control conception. The reasons are many, and they should be obvious. One reason I wish to mention here, however, is that life is our most basic right. If the government can control who can procreate, when, and how often, there’s not much left the government can’t control!
Fertility drugs do the exact opposite. The Catholic Church is clear that every married couple should be given the opportunity to have children. Sure, God creates some without this faculty, but He creates many of us with different types of problems. Should we not seek to use science to better our situation, as long as it is moral? What better way than provide infertile couples with the ability to procreate? God also gave us science. It was created for man, not man for science. We are created in the image of God, not science. Science should serve man, not the other way around.
This is the main reason the Church opposes artificial contraceptives, but allows fertility drugs. Archbishop Kurtz did not make all of these arguments in his brief letter to me. He did, however, point me to where I could find these arguments given. So let it now be clear for all Catholics that fertility drugs are allowed; artificial contraceptives are not; and the Church has very good reasons for this. The use of fertility drugs should cause no scandal. The use of artificial contraceptives should. Thank you, Archbishop Kurtz, for your guidance given me so long ago.
Peace in Christ,
David J. Pollard
American Catholic Solidarity