Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Gandhi on Contraception and Selfishness

Since everybody on Facebook now hates me for daring to suggest that it is wrong to use NFP for selfish or trivial reasons; in fact, many are angry at me for daring to suggest that it is even possible to abuse NFP in this way, as NFP seems, to most of my Facebook friends, to be a gift from God, I am reposting this.

At any rate, it's the contraceptive mentality that is killing us.

A selfish couple using NFP rather than contraception is not a victory for Our Lord and Our Lady.  "I don't use contraception but I'm still selfish!" is hardly something to brag about.  And any tool can be abused, including even the "sacramental" called NFP.  Just because Natural Family Planning is not contraception does not mean that it cannot be used as a de facto substitute for it, and used without serious reasons, but merely for trivial and selfish reasons: not used to protect the health of the mother or the sanity of the family or because of looming poverty, but for mere comfort and bourgeois self-indulgence.  I am told by my Super Catholic friends that this never happens.  But I am told by young Super Catholic friends that these sorts of reasons are indeed why many of them are using NFP.

The problem is the underlying selfishness, which obviously a neutral tool like NFP cannot address.  Only God's grace, His cross and resurrection, can address the underlying selfishness in each of us.

With that in mind, here's a reprint of a post from 2013 ...


 Salon, of all places, has re-published a 1939 article by Mahatma Gandhi about the evils of contraception and of "wasting seed".

Here it is.  The boldface is me highlighting Ghandi's words; the red is my commentary.


It is the fashion in some quarters nowadays for the young to discredit whatever may be said by old people. I am not prepared to say that there is absolutely no justification for this belief. But I warn the youth of all the countries against always discounting whatever old men or women may say for the mere fact that it is said by such persons.
Even as wisdom often comes from the mouths of babes, so does it often come from the mouths of old people. The golden rule is to test everything in the light of reason and experience, no matter from whom it comes.
I want to discuss the subject of birth control by contraceptives. It is dinned into one’s ears that gratification of the sex urge is a solemn obligations, like the obligation of discharging debts lawfully incurred, and that not to do so would involve the penalty of intellectual decay. This sex urge has been isolated from the desire for progeny, and it is said by protagonists of the use of contraceptives that conception is an accident to be prevented except when the parties desire to have children.
I venture to suggest that this is a most dangerous doctrine to preach anywhere, much more so in a country like India, where the middle-class male population has become imbecile through abuse of the creative function.  This is an old fashioned way of saying that if you spend all your time on self-indulgent non-productive activities like contraceptive sex or masturbation, the character it breeds in you will be nothing short of mentally deficient.  No, it won't "make you go blind" except morally and spiritually blind.
If satisfaction of the sex urge is a duty, unnatural vice would be commendable. This follows as the night the day.  Perversion becomes not only acceptable, it becomes obligatory - enforced, a duty.  "Gay marriage" then becomes imposed on your society and your church, whether you want it or not. Even persons of note have been known to approve of what is commonly known as sexual perversion. The reader may be shocked at that statement. But if it somehow or other gains the stamp of respectability, it will be the rage among boys and girls to satisfy their urge among members of their own sex.  I am told that the peculiar phrase pan-sexual is all the rage among the pierced and spiked who work at Subway (i.e., the kids of your wealthy suburban neighbors), and for twenty years now, a young woman just ain't with it if she hasn't had a Lesbian encounter or two in high school or college.
To me the use of contraceptives is not far removed from the means to which persons have hitherto resorted for the gratification of their sexual desire with the results that very few know. And I betray no confidence when I inform the reader that there are unmarried girls of impressionable age in schools and colleges who study birth-control literature and magazines with avidity and even possess contraceptives.
It is impossible to confine their use to married women.  Apparently this was the argument being used for contraception.  Compare the arguments, "Abortion will be used only for hard cases" or "Divorce if there's no other alternative" or "Let's get a cell phone and only use it for emergencies."
Marriage loses its sanctity when its purpose and highest use is conceived to be the satisfaction of the animal passion without contemplating the natural result of such satisfaction. I have no doubt that those learned men and women who are carrying on propaganda with missionary zeal in favor of their use of contraceptives are doing irreparable harm to the youth of the world under the false belief that they will be thereby the poor women who may be obliged to bear children against their will. Those who need not limit their children will not be easily reached by them.
Our poor Indian women have not the knowledge or training that the women of the West have. Surely the propaganda is not being carried on in behalf of the middle-class women, for they do not need the knowledge, at any rate, so much as the poorer classes do.
The greatest harm, however, done by the propaganda lies in its rejection of the old ideal and substitution in its place of one which, if carried out, must spell the moral and physical extinction of the race.  "The moral and physical extinction of the race" - see the demographic crisis that threatens Russia, China and the West and the moral crisis that gnaws even deeper.
The horror with which ancient literature has regarded the fruitless use of the vital fluid was not a superstition born of ignorance. What shall we say of a husbandman who will sow the finest seed in his possession on a stony ground, or of the owner of a field who will receive in his field rich with fine soil good seed under conditions that will make it impossible for it to grow?  In the Culture of Sterility, we say, "Well done, good and faithful servant, to waste your potential and destroy our future."  
God has blessed man with seed that has the highest potency and women with a field richer than the richest earth to be found anywhere on this globe. Surely it is criminal folly for man to allow his most precious possession to run to waste. And so is a woman guilty of criminal folly who will receive the seed in her life-producing field with the deliberate intention of letting it run to waste. Both he and she will be judged guilty of misuse of the talents given to them and they will be dispossessed of what they have been given.
Sex urge is a fine and noble thing. There is nothing to be ashamed of in it. But it is meant only for the act of creation. Any other use of it is a sin against God and humanity.  
It was reserved for our generation to glorify vice by calling it virtue. "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Is. 5:20).  The greatest disservice protagonists of contraceptives are rendering to the youth of today is to fill their minds with what appears to me to be wrong ideology.
Let the young men and women who hold their destiny in their hands beware of this false god and guard the treasure with which God has blessed them and use it, if they wish, for the only purpose for which it is intended.


John Henry said...

By this logic, isn't ANY use of NFP sinful? Why should a couple ever have sex during a known infertile time (like pregnancy, menopause, or phase 3?)

John Henry said...

By this logic, isn't ANY use of NFP sinful? Why should a couple ever have sex during a known infertile time (like pregnancy, menopause, or phase 3?)

Drusilla Barron said...

I don't hate you Kevin and I'm on FB. That doesn't necessarily mean I agree with everything you write. But then again, when I reread my writing, I don't agree with everything I write either. In this case, I think it's easy for those using NFP to interpret what you are writing about as NFP = contraception.

It's easy to miss that NFP is often "not used to protect the health of the mother or the sanity of the family or because of looming poverty, but for mere comfort and bourgeois self-indulgence."

That's the crux of the matter that requires self-examination. Am I using NFP "for mere comfort and bourgeois self-indulgence." It's also necessary to seriously ask, what "comfort and bourgeois self-indulgence" means. There's also the question of how the community fits in.

Before contraception, married men and women simply had children when and as they came. For most women, nursing helped space births but children were an expected part of a family. Certainly there were those who acted to circumvent pregnancy but until that wasn't the norm. Now, any man might have what only the very few once had; comfort and ease may be had in this lifetime. But children disrupt both. Envy is as much a part of the contraceptive mentality as selfishness (and greed). The breakdown in community fuels a contraceptive mentality. Fears, that once would have been eased because family and community were present to help, are now magnified and can become crippling.

A recently married friend is nervous about having children. She's never been comfortable around babies and young children. When she expressed those fears, friends and members of her community were able to assure her that they would help her. But what of those people who have no real community?

There's a lot of selfishness spread about in a contraceptive culture and not just among those who are misusing NFP.

Daniel D. D. said...

Dear Mr. O'Brien:

"Even after I try to correct for my own confirmation bias and the limits of my own experience, I’m still pretty convinced that contraception and surgical sterilization warp and wound ones character. The contraceptors I know tend to betray a horror and disgust with children. This does not mean they fail to love their own kids, but I’m uncomfortable with the number of times I hear them talk about escaping from childbearing as though they narrowly escaped from some terrible catastrophe. There is something grotesque in the couple saying “Oh, we’re done” without a hint of sorrow and without even a thought for what they passed up on. Maybe it’s true that it would be imprudent to have more, but why no sadness about it? Do you really think that if you could meet and live with the children that you are passing up that you would be so emphatic about making sure they could never exist? Why is it that it is so common for people to look at a large family as though it were an oppressive burden resulting from bovine stupidity about “where they come from” and not as a group of endlessly fascinating different personalities whose presence gives one so much to live for?"


Christi pax.

Anonymous said...

I need to read more Kevin O'Brien. I read him for a while and then fell away from a little bit recently, I don't know how.

Christian LeBlanc said...

NFP is essentially a tool, and like all tools, can be used and misused.

Christian LeBlanc said...

This isn't directly germane, but:

My wife and I NFP'd to get pregnant the first time, and thereafter were intimate without any rhyme or reason except love. I can't imagine how truncated that intimacy would be without that jump-off-the-cliff supercharge that on every occasion we can love another child into existence.

Sharon said...

I just posted this on my Facebook wall. I love this article and it speaks to my heart. I look forward to reading more of your reflections. Also, I am supposing you have a background in philosophy to write as thus. Thank you.