Homily: Richard Renker, deacon
St. John of the Cross Church
Middlebury, CT 06762
Until the year 1930, all Christian churches taught that birth-control
is wrong - that it is not in accord with the dignity of marriage. Up to
that point there had been a unified witness of all Christian Churches that
contraception was wrong in all circumstances. The first church to break
with this universal prohibition was the Anglican Church which stated that
for very serious reasons within marriages, contraception could be used.
Gradually the other denominations relaxed their teaching on birth-control,
and today the Catholic Church is the only Christian church in the entire
world to uphold this teaching. Why won't the Church give in on this
issue? Why won't it yield to the pressure of the many who claim that
Catholicism is archaic, medieval, out of touch with reality?
Let's take a look:
When God created mankind he gave us a special gift. This most
precious gift is that of creating another human being. We are blest with
the honor and privilege of assisting the Creator of the Universe in the
process of generating a new life.
One might ask, what's so special about this? Cats can produce
offspring - so can mice and dogs, birds and fish, reptiles and insects.
What's the big deal?
The big deal is this: The Book of Genesis tells us that God created
us in His image. Therefore, we are the only ones who can produce a life
that is an image of God.
Further, we know that the difference between humans and all other
living creatures is that we have an immortal soul. So then it follows
that we are the only ones who share in the creation of a soul - a soul
that is eternal - that will live forever. Isn't this awesome?
Now follow me a little farther - by ourselves this would not be
possible, for it is only God that can create a soul. So then, every time
a couple engages in the loving act - that sacred act reserved for married
people - God is present and is part of that love. That is why when we
contracept, we willfully - we deliberately cut God out of this wonderful
If you could momentarily forget the problems associated with
childbearing - financial problems, problems relating to careers
(especially, women in the marketplace), things like engaging in the
marriage act for the sheer pleasure of it - global problems, such as world
population - if you could put things like this out of your mind for just a
moment, wouldn't you agree that the Church's teaching has a sense of
wonder, awe and reverence towards God and the sacredness of life.
By the way, the Church does not deny that responsible parenthood
might involve decisions pertaining to the spacing of children or the
limiting of the size of a family. Let me quote from Humanae Vitae the
papal document related to this subject: " . . . . responsible parenthood
is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more
children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to
moral precepts, decide not to have children for either a certain or an
indefinite period of time."
What the Church condemns is any type of birth control that
deliberately prevents the possibility of creating human life. Because,
simply stated, when we do this, we willfully exile God from this most
wonderful, precious and sacred act.
The Catholic Church teaches that those, who, after pondering the issue
of whether or not to have a child - those who recognize their duties
toward God, themselves, their families and human society, and who decide
in good conscience not to have a child at that moment, or for that matter
indefinitely - should abstain from the marriage act. Not abstain
entirely, unless one chooses to, but at least during periods of fertility.
But, how does one know when she is fertile? Through a program called
Natural Family Planning. This is not as some people think, the Rhythm
System, which dates back to the 1930's and didn't work. This is a
scientific method, it is safe, it is effective it is taught in many places
in the archdiocese including St. Mary's Hospital, and its use is
encouraged by the Catholic Church, because Natural Family Planning does
not exclude God from our actions, but rather cooperates and participates
with Him in the natural processes which are part of His creation.
In addition, this time of abstinence teaches one something about
self-control which is so sorely missing from our society. Many young
couples who follow the Church's teachings in Humanae Vitae testify that it
has been a blessing to their marriage.
For sake of brevity, I must begin to conclude here, but before doing
so, let's step aside from the religious point of view. Recent sources
show that the means of contraception that are currently fashionable in
America are not as effective, safe and conducive to mutual respect within
marriage as one might think. But we'll have to leave that discussion for
In these modern times we are educated by MTV, network television, the
media, and secular schools and universities that have excluded God
completely from their curriculums. You will not hear a teaching like you
heard today in any of those places. In fact, the only place you will hear
this in the entire world is in the Catholic Church - a Church with the
courage and integrity to teach this most unpopular, yet important truth -
a Church which is not archaic nor irrelevant, but, rather, is a fortress
of truth in a world that has turned its back on God.