The scenes coming from the Gulf Coast have awakened my inner hippie. I’m no tree-hugger but I love the beach, and gazing at the vastness of the Atlantic ocean I thought about how, as stewards of God’s creation, we become indignant when nature is contaminated by trash, oil or other harmful substances.
Yesterday I was listening to one of those internet radio accounts that links to your Facebook and reads your mind to deliver relevant advertising, and it kept spewing ads for contraception.
I guess that since I’m a woman in my twenties — with great taste in music — they figured I needed birth control suggestions.
Accompanying the advertisement were the warnings and side effects. In addition to the typical nausea, cramping and irritability were a slew of unpronounceable issues. These are strong chemicals they’re promoting.
Nice try, but I don’t even use Splenda.
Since Pope Paul VI released Humanae Vitae in 1968, acknowledging that changes in society were raising new questions about the transmission of human life and sexual morality, the church has been both praised and criticized for remaining opposed to artificial contraception.
Pope Paul VI affirmed that although it is a difficult teaching, as a loving mother the church “cannot do otherwise than teach the law” (#19), to affirm that sexual intercourse was created by God for marriage — to be the “union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives” (#8).
The late pontiff prophetically spoke that it would “be evident that this endurance enhances man’s dignity and confers benefits on human society” (#20). Studies have shown that this teaching does indeed lead to stronger marriages, which strengthens society just as he predicted.
However, science has shown that this same teaching protects another area also: the environment.
In an age where we’re learning more and more about what harms the environment and are scandalized when millions of gallons of oil spill into the ocean, it turns out that the ecosystem is also at risk through our use of chemical contraceptives.
According to disturbing research from the University of Pittsburgh’s Cancer Institute’s Center for Environmental Ecology, chemicals that are estrogenic in nature find their way back into the water we all use. The hormones ingested in oral contraceptives make their way back into the environment.
Studies show that fish exposed to estrogen in rivers develop intersex characteristics.
If swimming in estrogen-polluted water causes sexual mutations in fish, what effects will exposure to this have on humans?
We are right to be concerned and even outraged by what we see in the Gulf of Mexico, but we should also be aware of other contaminants, especially those within our control.
When Pius VI warned against contraception, he explained that the “church is convinced that she is contributing to the creation of a truly human civilization. She urges man not to betray his personal responsibilities by putting all his faith in technical expedients” (#18).
I’m guessing the ecosystem was not the first thing on his mind, but could this be one more aspect of Humanae Vitae that time has proven to be right?
Alison Griswold is the youth director at St. Francis by the Sea Church on Hilton Head Island. She writes her column, Team Catholic, for The Miscellany.