“Catholic Answers Live” radio host Patrick Coffin has released Sex au Naturel: What It Is and Why It’s Good for Your Marriage (Emmaus Road), a new 160-page book defending the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage, family and sexuality as outlined in the 1968 papal encyclical Humanae Vitae.
After earning a Master of Arts degree in theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, he worked in Catholic media and as a biotech and pharmaceutical industry recruiter before becoming host of “Catholic Answers Live” in January 2009. The donations-supported program is aired on 125 AM radio stations, Sirius satellite radio, shortwave radio and over the Internet. His book began as notes from “A Bitter Pill to Swallow?” a talk presenting and defending Church teaching on sexuality he delivered at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Calif.
Why did you want to write Sex au Naturel?
To defend the Catholic Church’s teaching that each and every sex act ought to be open to human life. Once that principle is attacked, we see a rise of the divorce and pornography culture, and fewer people go to church. I wrote the book as an encouragement for Catholics and other Christians to give what Christianity has always taught about marriage, about commitment, about the nature of married sexual love and the differences between natural family planning and contraception a fair hearing.
Why was Humanae Vitae opposed by so many when it was released, and why do you believe it is gaining respectability now?
It was released at the worst possible time in Church history. The pill had been approved by the FDA for eight years in the United States. Vatican II concluded three years before, and the Church was in turmoil. Americans were dying in Vietnam, and both Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. On college campuses, there was protest and unrest. The Pope released this message in a topsy-turvy world.
Humanae Vitae didn’t contain any new teachings. In fact, it contained little argument and was Paul VI’s witness or testimony to what the Church has always maintained about marriage: It is ordained to new life and the unity of the spouses.
When it was released, it was instantly attacked. Many people were arguing for the birth control pill, which seemed to be morally different than the condom. It worked invisibly, seemingly in concert with nature. Pope John XXIII founded a commission to look at birth rates; the commission was expanded by his successor, Paul VI. A document was leaked revealing that the majority on the commission called for a change in Church teaching on contraception. So, the pressure was on to change the teaching. But, when he didn’t, Humanae Vitae was received like a stink bomb.
Many peoples’ perspectives have changed today, however, because the negative prophecies Paul VI predicted in Humanae Vitae have come true in spades. He predicted that the man would lose respect for the woman and that he would view the woman as an object of use rather than as an equal and respected partner. He also said that governments would step in and begin to determine how many children couples could have.
These predictions were laughed at in 1968. But today everything he said has come true. We see exponential divorce rate increases, the mainstreaming of pornography, and even a one-child policy in China. The pill has not liberated women, but has been a dream for the male libertine. Sex on demand is an easy-to-acquire commodity. I don’t think women or men are any happier today.
A new generation has come, though, who were too young to understand the controversy or who weren’t around in 1968. They want to know the truth. When they hear the truth, they love it and embrace it. I’m proud to be part of that generation.
What does the Bible say about birth control?
Children are always seen as a blessing in sacred Scripture, and sterility a curse. No exceptions. Large families are always seen as a sign of God’s blessing. Psalm 127: 3-5 says, “Lo, sons are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them!”
In Genesis Chapter 38, we hear the story of Onan. He was supposed to raise up a child for his brother’s wife, but, instead, he withdrew and spilled his seed upon the ground, an act for which God imposed the death penalty. Onan was not merely selfish, but he performed the sexual act, and then did another act to nullify the procreative potential. That’s why he received the death penalty.
How is contraception different from natural family planning?
The issue is the separation of love from life. Contraception is any act before, during or after intercourse which is designed to disable its procreative power and undermine the power of uniting husband and wife. Contraception is sex plus an anti-life action. NFP is sex plus nothing. Each and every marital act engaged upon on an infertile day does nothing to disable the act. It simply allows God to decide whether or not he wants to bless the sex act with new life or not. If couples have a serious and just reason to avoid children, even indefinitely, then they can enjoy marital relations during the infertile period.
Does contraception prevent overpopulation in the world?
Overpopulation is not a problem. In fact, underpopulation is. The population of the world is increasing, but less and less.
Some countries, like Japan, Italy, Germany and Russia, are in a desperate situation with birth rates well below replacement level. Fewer kids means fewer workers who will be able to support retirees. Our current generation will not be able to enjoy any kind of Social Security. Social Security is dead.
Demographics are changing in Europe. It will be a different place in 50 years. The dominant language will be Arabic. That’s almost a certainty.
The declining rate of new persons being born is already starting a vast global slowdown. In Japan, you see old-age homes increasing and children’s amusement parks decreasing. Every population base needs 2.2 kids per couple to maintain itself. When you dip below that level for long enough, you can’t catch up.
Why is contraception widespread?
Anyone who has reached the age of puberty wants to have sex. That’s a natural, God-given desire. We all want to do things that are pleasurable that have no consequences. The possibility of having a child out of wedlock has been largely removed thanks to contraceptives.
Does natural family planning lead to better marriages?
There’s a growing body of literature from outside Catholic circles that’s verifying the causal connection between natural family planning and marital happiness. An Austrian physician named Josef Rozer, for example, conducted a 20-year study where he followed 1,400 couples who were married and used NFP. He found a zero divorce rate.
In 2000, Dr. Robert Lerner, a sociologist from the University of Chicago, did a similar study and found a 0.2% divorce rate among couples using NFP. He found that couples who use NFP are more likely to converse frequently together, attend church together and pray together. They’re more likely to see each other as equal partners, because NFP requires you to be in touch with the natural rhythms of the wife’s body. NFP is entered into as a couple.
I’m glad to see more couples recognizing the beauty of the Catholic Church’s teachings on sexuality and enjoying the blessings of making those teachings a part of their lives.
Jim Graves writes
from Newport Beach, California.