The Bishop of Lincoln Issues a Timely and Courageous Pastoral Letter on Contraception

No one doubts that the family is going through a crisis today that shakes the very foundations of our society. But few have the lucidity and courage to denounce generalized contraception as a major cause undermining the institution of marriage.

A false concept of love
Most Reverend James D. Conley, Bishop of Lincoln, has done just this. In his March 25, 2014 pastoral letter titled The Language of Love – A letter to the Catholic families and healthcare providers of the Diocese of Lincoln,1 he calls out this evil as the overlooked cause of the family crisis.

With simple and intelligent arguments, he shows how the contraceptive mentality undermines marriage’s very foundation—the generous mutual love of the spouses willing to beget children, which are seen as blessings from God. By avoiding children, a couple selfishly closes in on itself and their mutual love often ends up withering, giving rise to temptations of divorce.

This is due above all to the false concept of love that prevails nowadays:

We live in a world short on love. Today, love is too often understood as romantic sentimentality rather than unbreakable commitment. But sentimentality is unsatisfying. Material things, and comfort, and pleasure bring only fleeting happiness. The truth is that we are all searching for real love, because we are all searching for meaning.

True love accepts self-sacrifice
True love is something different. It is a sacrificial self-offering that participates in the love of Jesus Christ and in His Passion and Death on the Cross:

Love—real love—is about sacrifice, and redemption, and hope….Sacrifice is the language of love.  Love is spoken in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who poured out his life for us on the cross. Love is spoken in the sacrifice of the Christian life, sharing in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.  And love is spoken in the sacrifice of parents, and pastors, and friends.

An anti-childbearing culture
When this true concept of love and a proper understanding of the role of sacrifice are absent, children are considered to be a marriage’s burden and hindrance, instead of its blessing and crowning:

Most Reverend James D. Conley, Bishop of Lincoln.

Most Reverend James D. Conley, Bishop of Lincoln.

Today, our culture rejects love when it rejects the gift of new life, through the use of contraception… Our culture often teaches us that children are more a burden than a gift—that families impede our freedom and diminish our finances. We live in a world where large families are the objects of spectacle and derision, instead of the ordinary consequence of a loving marriage entrusted to God’s providence. But children should not be feared as a threat or a burden, but rather seen as a sign of hope for the future.

There is no true happiness in sin
Quoting his predecessor, Bishop Glennon P. Flavin (+1995), the Bishop of Lincoln shows that there is no happiness in sin and exhorts contracepting couples to abandon the practice:

To expect to find happiness in sin is to look for good in evil. … Dear married men and women: I exhort you to reject the use of contraception in your marriage. I challenge you to be open to God’s loving plan for your life.

God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Confession
The Bishop of Lincoln shows how Catholic doctors are morally bound not to prescribe contraceptives to their patients since contraception is not a medical treatment. And, he recommends:

If you have used or supported contraception, I pray that you will stop, and that you will avail yourself of God’s tender mercy by making a good heartfelt confession.

While recognizing the licitness of Natural Family Planning periodical abstention, Bishop Conley warns that this practice can sometimes lead to an anti-childbearing mindset and the loss of confidence in Divine Providence.

We thank Bishop Conley for his wise and timely magisterium on an issue that usually receives little emphasis from our shepherds, though crucial for the proper defense of the sacred institutions of marriage and the family, and the survival of society.

Footnotes

  1. Any emphases are ours.

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