OKLAHOMA CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Several bishops are speaking up in defense of Church doctrine on birth control, hailing "the prophetic vision of Bl. Pope Paul VI."
In the lead-up to the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, Abp. Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City has published a reflection on contraception and its impact on society. In an article for archdiocesan newspaper The Sooner Catholic late last month, Coakley reaffirmed God's plan for human sexuality and marriage.
"Something as sacred as the transmission of human life cannot be cut loose from its moorings without grave consequences to individuals, marriages and families and to society as a whole," he warned. "The transmission of life and dignity of married love are integrally entwined. Both are sacred."
"To engage in sexual activity outside of marriage or for selfish purposes or while interfering with its natural fruitfulness by contraception is a rejection of God's intended meaning and purpose," he added. "It is sinful."
Archbishop Coakley praised Bl. Pope Paul VI for his "prophetic insight in recognizing the grave consequences that follow" the embrace of contraception, noting that "Separating sex from babies has disastrous and far-reaching consequences."
The Oklahoma City prelate recounted Bl. Pope Paul VI's warning that "A contraceptive mentality would lead inevitably, he said, 'toward conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality.'"
"It would be disastrous for marriage and families," he added, as it would lead to a "loss of respect for women, 'to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment and no longer as his (man's) respected and beloved companion.'"
Coakley took stock of the state of society, a half-century on from its near-universal rejection of Humanae Vitae: "Certainly, many family problems and social ills are linked to this widespread contraceptive mentality that separates sexual love from its proper context in the divine plan for marriage. The recent judicial redefinition of marriage is a clear result of this separation."
"A refusal to accept God's plan in creating us male and female with a natural complementarity between the sexes has led to gender confusion on a massive scale," he said. "It has led to plummeting populations and a 'demographic winter' in many countries."
"Skyrocketing divorce, widespread tolerance for extramarital and homosexual activity, abortion and a host of other problems follow in its wake," Coakley continued. "The loss of respect for God's plan for marriage erodes respect for the dignity of human sexuality and the sacredness of life."
"It has contributed to the explosion of pornography as a multi-billion-dollar industry and society's slide toward embracing euthanasia, embryonic stem cell experimentation and even human cloning," the archbishop added. "Instead of reverencing one another, we use one another as instruments for our own selfish purposes and enjoyment."
Archbishop Coakley's reflection came just days after San Francisco Abp. Salvatore Cordileone reaffirmed Church teaching on contraception.
Speaking at a Humanae Vitae conference at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, Abp. Cordileone spotlighted the false promises and failure of the sexual revolution.
"Sex is for fun" and "can now be had without the consequences. ... That was the cry of the day, and yet somehow it didn't work out that way," he observed.
Though Humanae Vitae can be a challenge to live out, Cordileone said it ultimately brings forth the greatest happiness for couples.
The San Francisco prelate also reminded Church leaders of their grave responsibility toward their flocks, warning that a distorted understanding of conscience weakens the Faith.
"The worst thing we can do ... is to soften or downplay the hard parts of our faith, those teachings where we encounter the most resistance or hostility in our culture," Cordileone said.
"We leaders in the Church do a grave disservice to our people by giving them excuses for taking the easy way out, such as misleading them with the false idea of what conscience means or failing to assist them in forming their conscience correctly," he noted.
Cordileone added that false appeals to conscience undermine fidelity to the Cross.
The archbishops of Oklahoma City and San Francisco aren't the only U.S. prelates to recently reaffirm Humanae Vitae. In February, Abp. Samuel Aquila of Denver underscored the wisdom of the Church on contraception in a pastoral letter.
Titled "The Splendor of Love," the document celebrates Catholic teaching on sexuality as "a light in the darkness that brings joy to those who live it out."
In it, Abp. Aquila suggested that compromise on contraception will destroy the Church. Reflecting on the post-endorsement decline of Protestant denominations, he cautioned, "Those communities of faith which have gone the way of the world in their teaching on human sexuality have not filled their churches but only emptied them."
Aquila's warning came on the heel of reports that the Vatican has set up a secret papal commission to "research" Humanae Vitae and may be preparing to shift its position on contraception.