Thank you for taking time to respond to my commentary. Your main contention is that what I wrote about doesn’t apply much to college-educated persons, in particular college-educated women. In that light, I’d first like to say that knowing the natural moral law, i.e., the law of God written on our hearts (cf. Rom. 2:14-16), and possessing the virtue to live that natural law, does not require a college-education, as I’m sure your grandmothers could affirm. Nor does a college education guarantee the acquisition of this immutable wisdom and the virtue to live it. I’ll revisit and develop this fundamental point as I proceed through my response.
In responding to your comments, anon, I agree that we must be rooted in reality, and included in that is fairly representing what I wrote. To be fair, I never said that “women are all single because of men’s failures.” Rather, I specifically spoke about those single women who have embraced contraception and abortion—and unfortunately they are many—and how contraception and abortion hurts them, such as preventing the genuine intimacy and commitment most of them so understandably desire. I also noted that many men are more than happy to support such policies, as they enable them to continue in their irresponsible, no-strings-attached relationships with women. This last point is particularly self-evident, as we see in our culture the increasing pervasiveness of “hook-ups,” “friends with benefits” and other forms of uncommitted relationships. And cohabitation has, at best, minimal strings attached, until common law kicks in or there is some form of non-marital contractual relationship.
Yes, I realize that women choose/consent to these relationships. While I focused my criticism on men, I have written elsewhere about the reality of “self-induced sexism.” In other words, while the slogan “men are pigs” can be used to describe sexually irresponsible men, the sad irony is that a good number of the women who utter those words are quick to jump into the sexual pigpen. I just chose to focus my attention on men in this commentary. As a secular-minded woman acknowledged to me just the other day, she’s increasingly running into more and more “50-year-old boys.”
But let’s consider the question more deeply: Do contraception and abortion truly harm or benefit women, their children and our larger society?
Contraception undermines marriage and family, which are the basic building blocks of any society. The possibility of procreation is a natural indication that those who engage in sexual intimacy should be committed, i.e., married, including for the benefit of their children, who should be the fruit of their love.
And as an examination of “sex au naturel” illustrates, there is inscribed into the very nature of the marital act a love-giving and a life-giving aspect, and that the latter is activated by the expression of the former. Contraception doesn’t simply undermine the life-giving aspect. Rather, it also undermines, to one extent or another, the very expression of conjugal love that is ordered toward procreation as one of its fruits. It thereby undermines the total and unconditional self-giving that marriage is called to be as a lifelong union, and of which the marital act and its regular renewal is a microcosm.
Some may think such a perspective is the product of outdated and otherwise misguided philosophy and theology, because contraception operates only on the merely biological plane, and thus what a welcome development modern, pervasively available contraception has been.
But consider the evidence. First, wherever contraception has been legalized and embraced by a country’s citizens in their everyday lives, abortion as its logical birth control back-up has inexorably followed. For example, in the United States, Griswold v. Connecticut made contraception-on-demand legal in 1965, and abortion-on-demand followed in 1973 with Roe v. Wade. These U.S. Supreme causes were not the strict causes of these social maladies, but they were certainly major confirmations that served as greatly exacerbating catalysts.
Aborted children are among the prime casualties of our increasingly “sexually liberated” culture. And that includes the untold number of children who are aborted via the Pill, which significantly impairs the implantation of conceived, embryonic children in their mothers’ wombs, when breakthrough ovulation takes place. Indeed, the reality of a child begins at conception, not implantation, which is merely a change in geography. Also included in abortifacient contraceptives are IUDs and other means.
And regarding reality, why is the great gift of a woman’s fertility a “medical problem” that must be treated with “preventive care”? Ditto with pregnancy, or more specifically unborn children whose dignity and personhood should not be contingent on whether they’re wanted by their parents.
And Sandra Fluke and others like her don’t have a medical problem; they have a moral problem. And given that their college educated women, should taxpayers be forced to subsidize their vice? No.
Contraception also teaches us that sex isn’t necessarily for marriage, and marriage isn’t necessarily for keeps. Cohabitation began to become more prevalent in the latter 1970s (see Tony Schwartz’s Newsweek cover story “Living Together,” August 2, 1977.) Given its uncommitted nature in “playing house,” widespread cohabitation would not be possible without the advent of modern, pervasively available contraception.
You argue that “the divorce rate hovers around 10%” among the college-educated and that “when educated people cohabit, it is almost always as a precursor to marriage.” You add that “even if social views are generally liberal among the educated, they are actually LIVING the family values. The egalitarian marriages of the upper middle class are a huge success. I am in one; I would NEVER trade places with my grandmothers from the 1950s.”
First, let’s consider cohabitation and marriage. For those couples who cohabit and actually marry, divorce is higher than for those who don’t.
That shouldn’t be surprising. In contrast to your grandmothers’ generation, in which couples were much more likely to be God-centered and thus committed to truly sacrificial, lifelong love—and that would include my parent and those of many friends—the contraceptive mentality works in an opposite, self-centered direction.
In his best-selling book The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectation, which was first published in 1979, Christopher Lasch got to the heart of the matter: “Efficient contraceptives, legalized abortion, and a ‘realistic’ and ‘healthy’ acceptance of the body have weakened the links that once tied sex to love, marriage and procreation.”
And the “generally liberal” social views among the educated are an indication that their family values are not well-founded. (Not to mention that their political choices, which flow from their socially liberal views, tend to foster societally erosive policies, witness the reelection of President Obama.) Couples who embrace contraception—vs. the morally different Natural Family Planning (NFP)—and support legalized abortion and same-sex “marriage,” are couples who don’t truly understand marriage, don’t know God well, and are thus more much vulnerable to having their marriages crumble as narcissism creeps in over time in one or both spouses.
And even if they don’t divorce, contraception will undermine the quality of a marriage, as men will be less likely to look at their wives as whole persons and more as objects, and also be more vulnerable to have variously wandering lustful eyes—and worse.
In that light, regarding divorce, be wary of your statistics. In May 1990, Prof. Neil G. Bennett, an Associate Professor of Sociology at Yale University, wrote in to The New York Times when someone questioned the 50-percent divorce rate. Dr. Bennett noted that if one is interested in the proportion of marriages that ultimately end in divorce, one must consider currently married Americans who either 1) have not yet divorced but will do so eventually or 2) have already divorced and have since remarried (and, one may add, are more likely to re-experience divorce.)
Dr. Bennett added that “by modifying the life table technique, demographers are able to project the eventual divorce rate of recently married couples, for whom we do not have 20 years’ worth of information. It is this group to whom the 50 percent figure, even 60 percent by some estimates, applies.”
And what we’ve sadly and increasingly learned in the intervening 20-plus years is that staying together 20 years doesn’t mean a couple will avoid divorce. Divorce rates are becoming increasingly more common among those who have been married 25, 30 and even 40 years, and that often includes the college-educated.
So a college education is no guarantee that a woman is going to sidestep the social disease of divorce. Also, the “Murphy Brown” syndrome of willful single motherhood among the college-educated is sadly not insignificant in current times (almost 10 percent),
And we need to remember that this societally problematic phenomenon was basically unknown only decades ago. And as to whether children do better in single-parent or intact homes, whatever their socio-economic status, The Atlantic published an excellent article almost 20 years ago.
As the statistics I cited in my commentary substantiate, things haven’t gotten better in the interim. Children of single-parent households, specifically those involving unwed births or divorce, tend to do more poorly in life, including re: poverty, and the increasing incidence of such homes does not bode well for the future of America.
A Princeton University study from last decade studied the behavior of college-educated women who were unmarried mothers, noting that a significant 20 percent of all unmarried mothers, whether never-married or divorced, are college-educated. The study concluded: “We find evidence that being college educated and single is associated with holding more independent views about marriage, with having lower-quality partners and with increased odds of becoming a mother late in life—above and beyond the main effects of education and marital status.”
This is further evidence for what I call the latex-immune nature of the moral law. A college-educated woman will sidestep unwed motherhood and sexually transmitted diseases more frequently than her non-college-educated counterparts, but she can’t flout the moral law with impunity. Moral absolutes substantiate themselves absolutely, whether to our benefit or detriment.
Anon, you said that “many women are single because they CHOOSE to be, or because they are waiting longer to get married, or being more selective about who they marry, which is a good thing and results in stronger marriages.” But we must recognize that the single life is not necessarily the primary desire of many single women. It’s often because the men with whom they’re in relationships won’t commit because they lack virtue, while other men may be interested in them but they’re less desirable and less virtuous. Such is our culture.
And, to reaffirm, the women are to blame too. But for better or for worse, women tend to follow the lead of men. When men don’t lead well, choosing not to lay down their lives for women, whether before or during marriage (cf. Eph. 5:25), women tend to follow suit, attempting to level the sexual playing field through contraception and abortion.
In summary, moral absolutes substantiate themselves absolutely. Sexual misbehavior, beginning in the premarital realm, has inevitable consequences. Lust, casual sex and aversion to commitment—character defects of every sexual liberationist to one extent or another—inevitably take their toll, producing great alienation between many men and women, with many repercussions for many children and families, existing and prospective, and thus for society at large.
If we’re going to change our culture, we’re going to have to change the way men and women relate to each other. We need to re-cultivate the virtue of chastity among men and women, and here we’re not talking about a teeth-gritting “just say no” or mere abstinence approach. Rather, the virtue of chastity, in which men cultivate joyful self-possession and view and treat women as whole persons, and women, in turn, act in the same toward men.
And it’s gotta start with the formation of our young people, but that won’t likely happen until parents obtain their taxpayer rights to choose the school of their choice for their children, because the federal government, the teachers unions and the public school system in general is not likely to recognize and promote the moral law anytime soon.
And finally, and most important, a return to God is needed, and specifically in full communion with Jesus Christ and his Catholic Church. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (Jn. 14:6), and he communicates his way, truth and life through his Church. Indeed, Jesus provides us with the truth that sets us joyfully free, now and forever (Jn. 8:32).