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Social science confirms harmful effects of contraception.

Chicago, IL -- The predictions found in Pope Paul VI's 1968 encyclical Humanae vitae affirming the Catholic Church's constant teaching that artificial contraception is wrong have been confirmed by the social sciences which show that ignoring the Church doctrine on sex and marriage is harmful to individuals and society. These are the findings of a Nobel Prize winning social scientist.

Writing in the current issue of Touchstone Magazine, University of Virginia professor W. Bradford Wilcox writes that when the encyclical was published in 1968 it was surrounded with controversy. In it, Pope Paul VI said widespread use of contraception would lead to "conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality." The Pope said men would no longer respect women but would treat them as "mere instruments of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as their respected and beloved companions."

Humanae vitae's publication was met with vigorous protest by many prominent American (and Canadian) clergy who were also academics. Some claimed that the Church's continued ban on contraception proved that Church authorities were indifferent to the plight of "real people." Thirty-six years later Wilcox says that an examination of the effects of the contraceptive mentality on society shows that it is those who dissent from Humanae vitae who are indifferent.

Wilcox, an assistant professor of sociology at UVA, cites research by six scholars showing contraception to be responsible for a significant rise in divorce and illegitimacy, both of which lead to other social ills like heightened rates of criminal behaviour and increased high-school dropout rates. Wilcox also argues that the poor are especially susceptible to the harms caused by the contraceptive culture. He notes that the research is not partisan. "The leading scholars who have tackled these topics are not Christians, and most of them are not political or social conservatives."

Robert Michael of the University of Chicago believes that the sudden widespread use of artificial contraception and the availability of abortion is responsible for "about half of the increase in divorce from 1965 to 1976." Wilcox cites George Akerlof, a Nobel prize-winning economist, who provides an economic explanation for why widespread use of artificial contraception resulted in an increase in illegitimacy, rather than a decrease as many predicted.

According to Akerlof, a traditional woman who wanted to either abstain from sex or at least receive a promise from her boyfriend that he would marry her in the case of pregnancy could no longer compete with "modern" women who embraced contraception. This created an environment in which premarital sex became the norm and women "felt free or obligated to have sex." "Thus, many traditional women ended up having sex and having children out of wedlock, while many of the permissive women ended up having sex and using contraception, or aborting, so as to avoid childbearing. This explains in large part why the contraceptive revolution was associated with an increase in both abortion and illegitimacy."

Wilcox says contraceptives remove one of the key reasons for getting married, the moral incentive. And while many members of the middle and upper classes marry because they know it serves their economic interest (the second key incentive for marrying), the poor are much more likely to marry solely for moral reasons. The result is that in the contraceptive era the poor have even less of an incentive to marry than do other classes. For this reason the poor have been hit even harder by the negative consequences that came about through widespread use of contraceptives. (Culture of Life Foundation, Jan. 4, 2005)
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Title Annotation:United States
Publication:Catholic Insight
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:May 1, 2005
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