In 1985, I interviewed my grandmother, Cecilia LaHood, for an article I wanted to write about her life. Her children were planning a big 75th birthday party for her (she was born in 1910), and I wanted to share her life story with everyone who attended the party.
While I was interviewing my grandmother, she told me that during the 1930’s when she started having children, most of her Catholic friends were using a new birth control device to limit the size of their families. She said that although she and my grandfather stayed faithful to the teachings of the Church (and subsequently had six children), most of her friends used the new birth control device to limit the size of their families to two or three children.
Although I was well aware of the widespread use of the birth control pill which began in the 1960’s, and the medical sterilization procedures that became popular in the 1970’s, I had no idea that Catholics were disregarding the teachings of the Church as far back as the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s.
I asked my grandmother what birth control device her friends were using and she didn’t want to tell me. She couldn’t bring herself to say what it was. After I pressed her for an answer, she finally said, “You know what I’m talking about don’t you? It’s that thing that they’re starting to hand out to kids in high school.” At first I couldn’t figure out what she was talking about, but then it hit me. I said, “Oh, are you talking about the condom?” “Yes, that’s what I’m talking about, that thing!” She still couldn’t bring herself to say the word.
After doing a little bit of research, I discovered that the latex condom was invented in 1920 and turned out to be superior to (and less costly than) its predecessor, the rubber condom. In addition, as a result of the industrial revolution, the first fully automated assembly line for latex condoms was patented in 1930, allowing manufactures to mass produce the newly improved birth control device. Prior to that, all condoms had to be individually hand-dipped by skilled workers.
In 1930, the Anglican Church’s Lambeth Conference gave its approval to married couples to use birth control. This was a complete reversal of the Lambeth Conference’s condemnation of all “unnatural means for the avoidance of conception,” which took place only 10 years earlier (in 1920).
Up until 1930, all Christian religions condemned the use of unnatural birth control devices and practices. In other words, for One Thousand Nine Hundred and Thirty years, all Christian religions taught that all forms of contraception were evil. (As a side note, the earliest recorded condemnation of the use of “coverings” – later known as condoms – was in 1605, in an article published by a Catholic theologian.)
In December, 1930, Pope Pius XI, issued the encyclical Casti Connubii (“of chaste wedlock”) which condemned the use of all contraception.
In 1931, the majority of a committee of the Federal Council of Churches, a U.S. Christian organization, approved “the careful and restrained use of contraceptives by married couples.”
The day after the Federal Council of Churches voted to approve “careful and restrained” use of contraceptives, the Washington Post published, in part, the following editorial:
Carried to its logical conclusion, the committee’s report, if carried into effect, would sound the death-knoll of marriage as a holy institution by establishing degrading practices which would encourage indiscriminate immorality. The suggestion that the use of legalized contraceptives would be “careful and restrained” is preposterous.
The above-quoted editorial comment is probably the most prophetic statement that has ever been published by an American newspaper. Ironically, today the Washington Post is rabidly anti-Catholic and supports all manner of “indiscriminate immorality.”
Did you grow up Catholic? Did you attend Catholic schools? Has anyone ever pointed out any of this historical information to you? If not, why not? The whole birth control mindset and belief system has been completely woven into the very fabric of our culture. Most of us not only adopted this mindset and belief system from the examples of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents, but we were also conditioned to accept it starting in early childhood – from our teachers, peers, institutions; from television, movies, magazines, newspapers; and now, from the vast expansive power of the Internet and its evolving social media.
I don’t blame Catholic couples who have automatically adopted the practice of contraception. They were not taught the truth about the teachings of the Church and the devastating consequences of contraception, such as the destruction of marriages, families, and whole societies.
In 1917, our spiritual mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, appeared to three young children in Fatima, Portugal, to ask them to convey a message to the faithful. Her message to all of us was that we should stop offending our Lord, amend our lives, and pray the Rosary every day. In one of her apparitions, she warned the children, “More souls go to hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason.” While our Lady did not specifically mention by name birth control, adultery, fornication, homosexuality, and pre-marital sex, all of these sins were covered with her reference to “sins of the flesh.”
Our Lady’s warning came on the eve of a crisis that was already festering and then caught the Catholic Church completely off-guard and unprepared. It is a crisis that continues to burn out of control and has consumed millions of Catholics.
This is truly a hidden crisis in the Catholic Church. Since 1930, there has been an immediate need for all of the Catholic bishops and cardinals to get together with our Pope for an international conference to draw attention to and deal with this crippling crisis (just as the United States Catholic Conference of Catholic Bishops dealt with the pedophile-priest crisis when they met in Dallas, Texas, in 2002).
Will this ever happen? I don’t know. All I can say is that it is up to each one of us to see to it that it does happen. We can all make a positive contribution by heeding our Lady’s warning at Fatima to stop offending our Lord, amend our lives, and pray the Rosary every day
This is a crisis that has taken me more than 30 years to fully understand. I don’t expect anyone reading this short article to comprehend the full extent of what I’m talking about. But it’s a good place to start.