Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power [i.e., contraception] passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. (Bl. Paul VI, Humanae Vitae 17)
Sin loves company. It’s not content to sit quietly by itself, but seeks to implicate others in its corruption. And so we see now the working out of Pope Paul’s prediction: having freed ourselves from the burden of Christian morality, we determined first that contraception was Good for married people; next, if it’s good for them, well then, it must be good for everyone. If it’s good for everyone, it must also be good for brown-skinned people living in poor countries, even if they don’t want it. If they don’t want what’s good for them, then we more enlightened folks (having freed ourselves from the burden of Christian morality) have not just the right but an obligation to force it on them.
So it goes when we allow such power to pass “into the hands of those authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law”. The problem is, such authorities and, come to think of it, individuals, tend to create their own precepts, their own “moral law”, but it is untethered to God’s law, which is the only law perfectly attuned to the true good of humanity. Thus Henri de Lubac, S.J., famously said: “It is not true, as is sometimes said, that man cannot organize the world without God. What is true is that, without God, he can only organize it against man”.
Catholics have long believed that our personal sins affect not only ourselves, but our neighbors, the Church, and the rest of the World. We have usually taken these effects to be more spiritual in nature, but we can see that it is true in a very practical material sense as well. When we reject God and his precepts, we reenact the rebellion of Satan and the Fall of Adam and Eve. And as we see here, even private sins can eventually become Public Policy.
Now, going to confession and resolving to avoid further sin will not directly or immediately help the exploited women of Kenya: that requires exposing the wrongdoing and working to change the policies that allow it. In the long run, however, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If we want a more decent and moral world, we all (myself included - mea culpa!) need to become more decent and moral people. And we can only do that with God’s help.
This Thursday Throwback was first published 7 Nvember 2014.