As a follow-up of sorts to my post yesterday
about Conrad Black's plea for the pope to jettison and denounce the Church's sane, logical, and moral stance regarding contraception, this news from Franciscan Univerity of Steubenville:
OH The best way to defend Catholic teaching on contraception is to
remain on the offense and utilize secular statistics, Adam and Eve After
the Pill author Mary Eberstadt told an audience gathered earlier this
semester at Franciscan University of Steubenville.
Eberstadt emphasized that contraception and its consequences are not “just a Catholic thing.”
“There’s a lot of misconception and ill will out there in the secular
universe, particularly toward the Catholic Church. The sexual revolution
and its repercussions are an everybody thing,” she said.
Eberstadt became intrigued by the sexual revolution while doing research
for an article she was writing on Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical, Humane Vitae. From her research Eberstadt developed extensive arguments rooted in studies conducted by secular scholars that supports Humane Vitae’s teachings. This, she said, is the key for engaging society in this topic.
“The sexual revolution has had a … sometimes catastrophically negative
fallout for men, women, and children across the globe, and the secular
world remains indignantly ignorant … (and) in denial about that fallout,
even as the secular evidence continues to mount,” she said during her
Eberstadt presented myths created by the sexual revolution and reasons
why the information presented in those myths is false. For example, she
said, the argument that women are happier while on birth control is
flawed, because there is increasing evidence that women complain more
about their lifestyle ¾ about men, marriage, their job ¾ when on the
“This is not the language of people who have been liberated,” she said.
“It is the language of people who have given up on human relationships.
It is the language of defeat and unhappiness.”
There is hope, though, in the notion that the sexual revolution is not a permanent fixture of society.
“History is littered with movements that claimed inevitability for
themselves and that are now as outdated as typewriters and telephone
extension cords,” said Eberstadt. “No social movement gets a special
dispensation from history, no matter how badly some people might want it
Eberstadt’s talk was part of Franciscan University’s 2013 Distinguished
Speakers Series, which hosts leaders whose integration of their faith
and public life inspire the next generation to be a transforming
presence in the Catholic Church and society.
For a full-length video of Mary Eberstadt’s talk, plus presentations by
many other Franciscan University speakers, go to www.FaithAndReason.com,
select ‘Channels,’ then ‘Toward a Culture of Life.’
A year ago, CWR interviewed Eberstadt about her book:
final chapter of your book is on Humanae Vitae. What is most striking
to you when you consider Pope Paul VI's arguments and explanations?
Eberstadt: I didn’t read Humanae Vitae itself until a few years ago,
and when I did, I was amazed for the reasons described below. I wish
every party to the debate over HHS would read that document too. There
would be a lot more clarity in this discussion if people were even just a
little more informed about what they think they know.
most striking thing about that document is this: its predictions about
what the future would bring have been thoroughly vindicatedand I’m not
talking about theology here, but about secular social science.
Vitae said that men would lose respect for women in a world where
contraception was ubiquitous. At a time when illegitimacy rates approach
the 50 percent mark around the Western world, and have passed it in
some places (most recently, Great Britain), it’s hard to argue that
Humanae Vitae got it wrong. After all, what’s a better measure of
respect than sticking with the mother of your childeven if not for the
child’s sake, but simply for hers?
But you don’t always need
social science to get the point. If you read, say, contemporary women’s
literature, fiction and non-fiction, you get a long litany of complaints
about menhow hard it is to find a good one, how women need to strike
out on their own, how they even need to have children on their own
because men can’t be counted on, etc., etc., etc. I go through a lot of
that kind of literature in the book, because it represents evidence of a
different sort that something has really run amok between the sexes.
if the Pill (metaphorically) has liberated everybody once and for all
from the chains of human nature, as liberationists have always said it
did, then why aren’t people happier? Why, to the contrary, does it seem
as if modern Western women are less content than they used to beas is
also strongly suggested by a fascinating recent sociological study on
“The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness,” also discussed in the book?
you look at popular culture or social science, the predictions of
Humanae Vitae hold up better than almost anyone gives it credit for. And
the fact that Humanae Vitae is nevertheless and simultaneously the most
globally reviled document of our time means that we are looking at an
enormous paradox here. That’s the central paradox of the book, and from
it many others radiate outward.
Read that entire interview. Also from a year ago, my "suggested trilogy" for those wondering, "What's the deal with the Pill?", which has a great quote from Dr. Joyce Little; here is part of it, from Little's excellent book, The Church and the Culture War (Ignatius Press), published nearly 20 years ago:
Catholics, however, the roots of a culture of death strike deeper than
abortion. The watershed issue for Catholics is not abortion but
contraception. For contraception places before us the central issue of
our agewho has dominion over man? Man himself or God? In Genesis, God
gave man dominion over nature (Gen 1:28), but he reserved dominion over
man to himself, as exemplified in his one command to Adam and Eve. Is
the human body a part of that realm over which God gave man dominion, or
is the human body indissociable from the human being over whom God
reserved dominion for himself? That is the unavoidable question raised
by contraception. To divorce sex from procreation is to divorce man from
his role as co-creator with God in order to set man up as the sole lord
of even his own existence. It is to reduce sex to the level of a simple
biological function which, as such, belongs to the nature over which
man has dominion. In doing this, man gives himself the warrant to define
for himself what is good and what is evil in all matters pertaining to
sex-and thus to life and death. To the man, and even more the woman, who
claims contraceptive control over his or her own body, abortion is but
the logical and even necessary corollary to such a notion of control.