GLEN COVE, NY — Progressives held three closely
related superstitions between the two world wars: eugenics, scientific
racism, and contraception.
Eugenics was the theory that humanity could be improved by breeding
more superior people (understood as northern Europeans) and fewer inferior
people, especially by involuntary sterilization.
Scientific racism was the theory that the races of the world could
be ranked from the best to the worst, with whites at the top.
Contraception was viewed as a means of accomplishing eugenics by limiting
the births of those deemed to be racially inferior or unfit.
Although eugenics and scientific racism today provoke only shame and
outrage, contraception flourishes.
The three progressive superstitions were and are opposed by sound
(especially Catholic) moral teaching. Somehow, however, a contraceptive
mentality survived. This is partly due to the fact that the view has
evolved. It no longer only a selfish means for curbing the birth of
the racially inferior and the unfit. It is now also a selfish means
for families to afford a second luxury car instead of supporting another
Above all, it is a means for 30-year-old female law students to plan
their lives around frequent premeditated sexual relations without consequences
or, apparently, without shame. It has reached the point that a student
can enroll in a Catholic university for the express purpose of trying
to force it to provide her with contraceptives.
While selfishness explains a lot, contraception has not joined eugenics
and racism in the dustbin of history for two additional reasons: a
failure of evangelization and a failure of catechetics.
Opposition to contraception has been considered to be an eccentricity
of Catholics for well over a half century. This is in large part because
the opponents of contraception have not evangelized effectively. They
have not proclaimed in the public square that contraception is contrary
to God’s plan for families. They have not told people that the
old Episcopalian marriage ceremony was literally correct in explaining
why God blessed the institution. They have not spoken about the multiple
layers of harm that contraception engenders: harm to the spiritual
and emotional lives of those who practice it, harm to the society of
so many irresponsible single women and men, and harm to the country
from a falling birth rate.
Catholics, in particular, should be telling everyone that contraception
is wrong, just as they tell everyone that racism is wrong.
The failure of catechetics has been twofold. First is the failure
to effectively articulate the dogmatic value of the Church’s
teaching on the question. There is, in fact, a failure to proclaim
that the teaching has any dogmatic value at all.
While the Church’s teaching on contraception has never been
defined solemnly, several successive Popes approved this teaching,
as has the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in documents
approved by these Popes. All have made it clear that the prohibition
of the use of artificial contraceptives is infallible and of Divine
origin. Yet this recurrent teaching is not adequately understood by
Many Catholics have never been taught the distinction between natural
law and positive law, or between doctrine and discipline. They have
never been taught that there is a fundamental difference between a
command to attend Mass on a certain day or to abstain from meat on
another day, and a command not to murder or commit adultery or bear
At best, too many think any distinction is merely a one of seriousness.
They think the prohibition of contraception is something the Church
invented, like Lent.
Second is the failure to communicate the immutability of the teaching.
The First Vatican Council solemnly declared that the meaning of the
doctrine of the faith never changes because of the progress of knowledge (scientia). Despite the changes that occurred, some quite rapidly,
in the Catholic Church after Vatican II, none of them was at the level
Proponents of contraception frequently bring up the Galileo case to
prove that the Church changes its mind to keep up with science. It
is important to remember, however, that Galileo was wrong on the specific
point on which he was condemned, namely, his teaching that the sun
is the center of the universe, .and the Inquisition tribunal was right
on this specific point, even if the tribunal was ignorant in some of
its comments. The Pope disagreed with the ignorant part of the tribunal’s
findings. Finally, tribunals do not define dogma. (“Was
Catholics need to be taught that contraception will never be considered
We have a lot of work to do before contraception joins racism and
eugenics in the dustbin of discredited ideas.
The Confederate Lawyer column is copyright © 2012
by Charles G. Mills and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation, www.fgfBooks.com.
All rights reserved.
Charles G. Mills is the Judge Advocate or general counsel for the
New York State American Legion. He has forty years of experience in
many trial and appellate courts and has published several articles
about the law.
See his biographical sketch and additional columns here.
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