Excerpts from the book New Perspectives on Contraception by Dr. Donald DeMarco
The Natural Law
The natural law is not the same thing as the laws of nature. The former has a moral dimension, the latter does not. One is an inclination (p.4) or disposition, the other is a demonstrable fact. The Ancients referred to the natural law as the unwritten law and held that it was imprinted on the hearts of men
At the same time, though distinct, the natural law is not separate from the laws of nature. In fact, it incorporates it. Man grows and ages. This is a fact of biology, one that flows from the laws of man's nature. But there is no such law of his nature that impels him to become more moral, that is to say, a better or more virtuous human being. He must choose freely to be moral; but biological growth belongs, fundamentally, not to the order of freedom and morality, as does the natural law, but to the realm of necessity and the laws of nature (which are interpreted by the physical sciences).
Contraception itself could not have been developed and improved without considerable knowledge of the sciences, especially chemistry and biology. It presents a moral problem not because it emerges from a knowledge of the laws of nature, but because it is contrary to the natural law. Many critics have stated that because the Catholic Church opposes contraception, she must also oppose science and scientific progress. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Church does not oppose knowledge of the laws of nature, but she does oppose application of that knowledge when it is contrary to the natural law, which inclines man to what is good for him as a whole in the pursuit of his destiny.
Knowledge of the laws of nature help man to understand who he is, but they are not sufficient to advise him about how he should live. Man is not merely an animal; nor is he a being whose full meaning reveals itself to the scientist. He has a spiritual dimension that transcends the world of science (the laws of nature). He has an inborn sense of what he ought to do, and this is the natural law that is imprinted on his heart. Moreover, in doing what he ought to do, he directs his life toward its fullness which he experiences, as Aristotle contends, in the form of personal happiness.
There is a philosophy of individualism that honors no other law than will or freedom. This philosophy owes much to the 18th century (p.5) philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau who advised that one should "obey only himself." The problem with obeying only oneself, however, despite its enormous popularity in the contemporary world, is that it alienates the person from the natural law that embraces his physical as well as his spiritual nature. It represents a mode of living that has lost its anchor in nature. It is a philosophy based on something as shadowy and unreliable as whim and illusion. Moreover, it does not represent a philosophy that one could share with others in the interest of working together for a common good
The natural law is a realistic and reliable basis on which we can understand who we are and how we are to act. We are often vain and selfish. The natural law brings us back to reality. Moreover, the natural law is a reflection of God's eternal law. We begin to discern God's Plan, however dimly, when we begin to appreciate the natural law. For this reason, the great philosophers of antiquity understood that since nature comes from God, the natural law is founded in Creative Wisdom itself. We honor God by honoring the nature He created.
because it is essentially involved with nature, love, procreation,
and community, places husband and wife in a particularly advantageous
position to appreciate God's Plan. Pope Paul VI has stated that "God
the Creator wisely and providentially established marriage with the
intent that he might achieve His own design to love through Men"
(Humanae vitae, sec.8). But the use of contraception, which separates
sexual union from procreation, represents an act that withdraws from
nature and the natural law, thereby isolating the partners from that
which gives marriage its proper direction. It is an act that can make
God's Plan increasingly difficult to see. "What is contraception,"
asks John Kippley, "except the studied effort to take apart what
God has put together?"2 Typical of a growing number of medical
doctors, Kim Anthony Hardey, who is a Board Certified Obstetrician/
Gynecologist in Lafayette, Louisiana, has made the following statement:
"In 1993, I became convinced that artificial contraception was
not part of God's Plan. I was also convinced that providing or
Withdrawing from nature and suppressing the natural law in one's heart can prove calamitous. Contraception can often be the gateway to such calamity. By adopting contraception, one takes an important step toward adopting a contraceptive philosophy that replaces (p.6) living by the natural law with living by one's own law of freedom. The disorder of contraception may not be evident to everyone, but the disorders it invites - sterilization, abortion, experimental reproductive technologies, divorce, etc. - become increasingly evident to the point of becoming undeniable
late Herbert Ratner, a distinguished public health physician, editor,
and international lecturer, was fond of stating that God always forgives,
man sometimes forgives, and nature never forgives. We disregard the
laws of nature and the natural law at great personal peril. One might
expect that the subject of the tragic case outlined above would, if
she could live her life over again, live it in a way that expressed
more respect for nature and less for "doing one's own thing."
Perspective can be, like hindsight, 20-20. How can we maintain the
right perspective when the pressures and temptations of the moment
can be so powerful that they block out everything else? In this regard,
the art of storytelling can be most helpful. A good story offers the
advantage of placing past, present, and future into perspective in
order to show that the greater meaning of the moment lies in how well
it serves the unfolding of a plan. Both life and the natural law fully
reveal themselves on the horizon of time.
|2001 Catholics Against Contraception|